ISLAMABAD - In Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, it is now mandatory for anyone leaving their homes to wear a mask. Many people have already been wearing masks for some time in a bid to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Evidence has shown masks likely do reduce the spread of COVID-19, so wearing them is a good thing – particularly as Victoria continues to grapple with a second wave. But one conversation we’re not having enough is around how to safely dispose of single-use masks. Disposing of used masks or gloves incorrectly could risk spreading the infection they’re designed to protect against. While reusable cloth masks are an option if you’ve been able to buy one or even make one yourself, disposable, single-use surgical masks appear to be a popular choice. They provide protection and they’re cheap and convenient.

It’s estimated the global use and disposal of masks and gloves will amount to 129 billion face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves for every month of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The effect on the environment is an important but separate issue to the health risks we’re discussing here. Alarmingly, from what we’ve observed, people are discarding masks in communal rubbish bins and even leaving them in empty shopping trolleys.