For all our sake, please don’t recycle your face masks

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Image from Facebook: News5 Features

This week, a post made rounds on Facebook about a woman from Northern Mindanao who discovered that surgical masks can be recycled as seedling bags. She did this as a means to reduce waste and keep waste collectors from possible infection. While the original entry isn’t up on the site anymore, a local news agency managed to pick up the story.

As expected, medical experts were quick to clarify why recycling used face masks pose a hazard. To very briefly summarize their recommendation: don’t. Here’s why we shouldn’t do this, as well as other misguided things we probably do with our face masks, according to specialists.

DON’T recycle face masks.

The word “disposable” isn’t just decorative. Given they are considered medical wastes, surgical masks should only be worn once and should be thrown after every use, regardless of how long you wore them during the day. And you definitely shouldn’t knit them into seedling bags.

If you want to dispose of your mask to not infect waste collectors, then dispose of them properly. Cut the rubber cords to prevent reuse and put the mask inside a bag before throwing it away. 

DON’T wear the wrong mask.

Seeing as people have come up with all types of face masks to cope, we could all use a reminder about what the right type of mask to wear is.

For starters, do not wear an industrial gas mask, or any mask that has a large exhale valve, because they might not keep the infectious particles out. Also, don’t wear gimmicky character masks just for kicks; chances are, its different assembly only puts you at a greater risk.

If you’re making your own face mask, follow the standards set by health organizations, which mainly includes ensuring ample size to cover up to the nose bridge, and stitching multiple layers into the mask.

DON’T put it in your pocket.

Please do not store your face mask in your shirt’s pocket, in your pants’ pocket, or any of your bag’s pockets. 

This only heightens the risk of contamination, first, by exposing your mouth during those few precious minutes, and second, by having to grab your mask without knowing which side you’re going to touch. 

If you’re going to wear a mask outside, commit to it until your safely back home.

Which other mask misconceptions have you seen or heard?

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