Let’s Talk Trash: Masks unmasked

Last fall, who would ever have thought they’d be shopping for fashionable, earth-friendly masks? Life, if nothing else, is proving to be predictably unpredictable.

Rather than chiming in on the social-media-saturated conversation about whether we ought to be masking up or not, let’s look at the eco impact of this latest accessory.

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N95 masks, likely modelled first for us by health practitioners, are melt blown polypropylene (also known as synthetic, also known as plastic) and have electrostatic and fine filtration qualities. There is currently no recycling program in our region for these, now ubiquitous, and often single-use items.

Due to mask shortages in some places, however, sterilization through UV light, hydrogen peroxide or heat can allow for reuse.

Fortunately, the general public has other mask options. As more regulations for mask wearing seem to be the norm for this autumn season, what are you going to be sporting?

Washable? Three-fold? Pocket filter insert? Reversible? Plastic shield? Personalized print? Upcycled? Political? Culturally identifying? Chin-mounted? Locally made? Embroidered? Mass-produced? Silk screened?

We are now literally in the face of a new single-use item, but need not be. Many of us are already toting around our own personal reusable masks, and if not, may find ourselves denied entry or having to purchase a disposable one.

People who are returning to the classroom are likely going to be needing to get used to this unusual addition to their school supplies list.

If you haven’t yet gotten your own reusable mask, there is a whole cottage industry popping up where children, crafters, artists, entrepreneurs and grannies are creating unique fabric masks in pretty much whatever print and form you could imagine. Some will even transform a fun or meaningful bit of fabric you already have into a mask for you.

Keeping it clean, at least for adults, is made simpler with a cloth pocket baggy. If a stain does happen when you raise your reusable coffee mug directly to your marked lips, fabric masks and carriers are at least washable.

In this new mask-normalized era, we have a new opportunity to advertise fashion forward zero waste.

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste-reduction education program. For more information, email info@LetsTalkTrash.ca or go to LetsTalkTrash.ca.

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