AwareNow: Issue 18: The Outside Edition

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Page 8

“It is estimated that as many as 3.5 billion improperly disposed masks could end up in our world’s oceans this year.”

Allié: A man on a mission to create a ‘Zero-Waste India’, you are not unfamiliar with big tasks. Responding to pandemic pollution is an incredibly large task. What is it going to take to ensure success?

Zeeshan: The Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) has also reported concerns about incorrect disposal, saying: “If even only 1 percent of the masks were disposed of incorrectly…this would result in 10 million masks per month dispersed in the environment. Considering that the weight of each mask is about 4 grams this would entail the dispersion of over 40 thousand kilograms of plastic in nature.” Environmental experts say even if we put them in bins they could still end up finding their way to rivers, oceans, into the environment – or end up filling up more landfill sites – so we should just avoid single-use plastic masks where possible. You can get ahold of reusable masks quite easily, we don’t want single-use plastic to become the new norm again. Different germs can survive on a used mask for different durations. Experts feel that viruses, when left exposed, can survive between a few hours and a few days. My earnest request to all of you is not to throw the used mask indiscriminately in lifts, parks, workplaces, homes, or open dustbins as it can pose a potential health hazard to people who come in contact with such masks. Also, some people are picking them up for re-use and hence putting their life in danger. The infected masks have respiratory secretions on them and can be dispersed and transmitted through the air. So, please be sensitive. Always wash your hands before and after taking off the mask. Manage your mask responsibly:

Cloth Mask 
 Wash properly and frequently. Hang and air dry.

Surgical Mask
 Fold, tie and wrap. It should be removed chin upwards and please take care to remove it from the strings and be careful not to touch the front portion while taking off the mask. After taking the mask off, please fold it half inwards, such that droplets from mouth and nose are not exposed. Then, fold the mask into another half, until it looks like a roll. The mask can also be wrapped with its ear loops so that it will not unravel. Then wrap the mask in a tissue paper or polythene bag and immediately discard it in the yellow waste bag. Keep the things handy before disposing of them.

N95 Respirator
 When removing the mask, hold the edge of the straps attached to take off the N95 mask. Don’t touch the inside part of the respirator. Wash hands before and after it. Gently remove the mask so as not to disseminate contaminants on the mask. Place the mask in a plastic bag or zip-lock bag. You can also store them in a breathable container such as a paper bag between uses. Secure the bag tightly. Place the plastic bag into a garbage can or biomedical waste disposal unit. Never put on a new mask until you have properly washed your hands.

Allié: The work you are doing is vital to our planet and to us all, Zeeshan. Please tell us about the Relive Eco Foundation and your plans moving forward.

Zeeshan: Through my organisation Relive Eco Foundation I am introducing the World's First Mask Disposal Reward Program under the Dispose Safely Campaign. We are committed to limiting our environmental footprint by promoting the safe disposal of mask waste. Through the Covid19 pandemic masks are vital in keeping our people safe and our healthcare systems functioning, but we feel obligated to address the waste that is a byproduct of the increased need for disposable face masks. We estimate that over 2.5 million tons of Covid-19 related single-use masks will be used over the next year in India itself. Furthermore, it is estimated that as many as 3.5 billion improperly disposed masks could end up in our world’s oceans this year. Our Mask Disposal Reward Program keeps masks out of landfills by providing rewards in the form of discount coupons for the safe disposal in the mask bins. Contributors can avail the rewards by scanning the QR code at the bins. These masks are collected then sterilized, broken down and repelletized, and given a second life (such as building materials, concrete reinforcements, textiles, etc). ∎ Learn more about Zeeshan & his work: