Can you reuse disposable masks and are they biodegradable?
Face coverings have become commonplace in the wake of coronavirus – and are set to become more so following the news that they will become compulsory in shops in England from 24 July.
The move will bring England in line with Scotland, where it is already mandatory to wear face masks in shops – and adds shops to the list of places where face coverings are already compulsory, including public transport and hospitals.
While many people have opted for reusable face masks, others have been using disposable ones instead – but can those masks be reused, and if not can they be recycled?
Here’s what you need to know…
Can you reuse disposable face masks?
The short answer is no, you should not reuse disposal face masks as these are only designed to be worn once.
The World Health Organization says of the disposable masks: ‘Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not reuse single-use masks.’
Surgical N95 masks are also designed to be disposable, although there has been some debate over whether they can be cleaned and reused.
However people have been advised not to buy N95 masks to ensure there is an adequate supply for NHS workers and carers.
Your best bet if you want a reusable mask is to buy one or make one yourself.
It’s possible to make one from a whole range of materials, including an old T-shirt, a bandana or even a pair of socks – and always remember to wash your hands before putting a mask on and after taking it off.
Are disposable face masks biodegradable?
Don’t put masks, gloves or other personal protective equipment (PPE) in the recycling.They cannot be recycled.Throw them in the bin instead.If you have #coronavirus symptoms or live with someone who does, you need to take extra precautions before throwing away your PPE. pic.twitter.com/RlfeYap3mY— Defra UK (@DefraGovUK) May 18, 2020
The regular disposable face masks are not biodegradable, and need to be disposed of safely to prevent spreading infection.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has said that disposable face masks ‘cannot be recycled’, and the WHO advises that once you have removed a disposable mask you should immediately throw it away in a closed bin.
If you have coronavirus symptoms Defra has said you should store your waste safely for 72 hours before putting it in external bins that might be used by others.
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