KOMPAS.com – The corona virus that caused the Covid-19 pandemic increased the use of disposable masks in the world.
Based on data from Worldometers, the number of confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 has reached 159,490,374 cases as of Tuesday (11/5/2021) morning.
The number of cases and the high transmission rate demands that people wear masks every time they do activities outside the home.
As a result, disposable masks have been produced on a large scale to protect humans from virus attacks.
However, if not disposed of properly, mask waste can become a big threat to natural damage.
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The amount of mask waste
Reporting from The Independent, Saturday (12/3/2021), a recent study estimated that humans now use 129 billion face masks every month around the world.
If a month has 31 days, then the average use of disposable masks is around 2.8 million masks per minute, according to research published in the journal. Frontiers of Environmental Science and Engineering.
The researchers warned that the large volume of mask waste, with its plastic composition, could pose an environmental threat.
They are pressing for action to prevent this from becoming the next plastic problem.
Unlike plastic bottles, which are about 25 percent recycled, there are no official guidelines for recycling masks, so they are likely to be disposed of in an improper manner.
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Impact on the environment
If not thrown away for recycling, like other plastic waste, single-use masks can end up in freshwater systems, and oceans.
This is where weathering can produce large numbers of micro-sized particles (smaller than 5 mm) in a matter of weeks and further fragments become nanoplastics (smaller than 1 micrometer.
“But we know that, like other plastic waste, single-use masks can also accumulate and release harmful biological and chemical substances, such as bisphenol A, heavy metals and pathogenic micro-organisms,” said Elvis Genbo Xu, a toxicologist from the University of Southern Denmark. .
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It explains that such content will have a negative impact on plants, animals, and even humans.
The researchers also urged the authorities in each country to prepare special mask bins, for collection, disposal and steam to reduce the impact of mask waste.
One of them can also implement the use of reusable masks, develop disposable masks that are biodegradable, and apply standard waste management.
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Category of waste masks
As for waste management during the handling of Covid-19 in Indonesia, it is classified into 3 categories.
As regulated in the Circular (SE) of the Minister of Environment and Forestry (LHK) Number SE.02 / PSLB3 / PLB.3 / 3/2020 concerning the management of infectious waste or waste of hazardous and toxic materials (B3) and household waste from handling Covid -19.
Waste originating from health care facilities can be managed by destroying them, using an incinerator with a temperature of 800 degrees Celsius, especially during this pandemic. Alternative culling through cement kilns is also possible.
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- Household waste category, with Covid-19 cases
This waste is categorized as B3 due to contamination with viruses. So, the handling can be done like category B3.
Households that need to pay attention to their medical waste, especially with a family member who has contracted Covid-19 or has the status of a person under observation (ODP).
- Household waste category, excluding the Covid-19 case
Medical waste sourced from households. Usually used for everyday purposes such as masks. Disposable medical masks that are used on a daily basis by the public fall into this category.
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