UCL Plastic Waste Innovation Hub thinks, “Reusable masks are more effective than disposable masks” because the quality of reusable masks is better than disposable masks. Most families in Bangladesh, especially mothers and sisters, are involved in sewing and if they wish, they can buy good quality cotton cloth and make a double layer mask at home which will save the environment at the same time save them financially.
According to researchers, if every person wears a one-use mask every day for a year, it will create millions of tons of contaminated plastic waste and the effects of climate will be multiplied many times over. "If the government decides to wear a face mask in public, it must be a reusable mask, not a single-use mask," the report said.
However, it is important to "ensure the use of one-time masks for frontline healthcare workers" and encourage people to wear reusable masks at the public level, otherwise the risk of disposing of 66,000 tons of contaminated plastic masks per year in the UK alone will increase. In this ratio, about 1 lakh 56 thousand tons of polluted plastic waste can be generated in Bangladesh every year and around 75 lakh 63 thousand tons in the whole world which will lead to the problem of climate change to a more dire consequence.
Since almost all the materials used in the hospital, globes, disposable PPE, etc. are "contaminated", waste management is done following proper procedures but this mask used by common people can be a big threat to public health. Because those of us who are in divisional cities including Dhaka, Chittagong may be dumping this waste in a specific place but it is not being managed properly and the situation in the district town or village is even more horrible, like other dirty masks are being thrown there.
In this regard, now is the right time for us to ensure country based waste management plan as well as to ensure allocation of funds in municipalities including national budgets and at the same time to select the sites for waste management and make arrangements for its acquisition or to select a dumping station with a few upazilas.
At the same time waste will be managed and electricity can be generated using it. The developed countries are already doing well in this regard. If necessary, we can implement this work with them on PPP basis as they are very interested in investing in this field.
In this regard, the government may ( if necessary), formulate a public health policy that will have clear instructions on how to wear, remove and disinfect reusable masks, as well as clarify the responsibilities of hospitals, city corporations, municipalities, unions and villages.
It is important to know that reusable masks do not endanger people and do not "degrade their social status" but normalize their lives, as they are made of cotton and are easily digestible and can withstand the effects of climate change. Repeated use will save money and reduce the risk of death.
This year's theme for World Environment Day was "Biodiversity". I think there are a lot of similarities in this regard, so each of us should be aware of the use of plastics and masks from their respective places, as this will improve the overall environment as well as reduce the risk of climate change to some extent, which will protect "biodiversity". The writer is a development worker & consultants for Environment and social development.