The Government launches a campaign to prevent the abandonment of masks in natural environments and to promote the use of reusable ones.

An abandoned mask in a natural space in Madrid.

The Government has launched an institutional campaign to make citizens aware of the impact of the abandonment of hygienic-sanitary waste, like hygienic masks, in natural environments and raise awareness about their correct recycling. If left in the wild, masks may take up to four centuries to disappear. Meanwhile, it can end up in the sea, joining the more than eight million tons of plastic waste that is dumped into the oceans annually.

The bell The mask is for you, not for nature, promoted by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (Miteco) and the Ministry of Consumption, it also promotes the use of protective masks against Covid-19, especially those of UNE0065 specification or reusable.

“A common hygienic mask abandoned in the wild can take a long time to degrade between 300 and 400 years, several hundred years in which it affects us, the water, the soil, flora and fauna ”, has warned Teresa Ribera, the fourth vice president and minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.

“At a time when we must all act responsibly, protecting ourselves and our fellow citizens with the use of masks, it is important extend that protection to natural environments, which provide us with basic services such as clean air, water and food, avoiding abandoning masks or any other waste ”, added Ribera.

Responsible consumption

For his part, the Minister of Consumption, Alberto Garzón, has called for the “individual responsibility of citizens, key in the three phases of the mask: purchase, use and disposal“.

In the first, he appealed to “responsible consumption” and recalled that, compared to single-use surgical and hygienic masks, the government recommends acquire when possible reusable (UNE 0065 specification), which allow reducing the amount of waste generated.

Garzón has also insisted that this “responsible consumption” must be linked to a correct use to avoid spread of Covid-19.

About the waste phase: “Society has been becoming aware in recent decades of the importance of both recycling and not leaving containers in natural and urban environments outside of their containers. New waste such as the millions of masks, gloves or gel containers generated due to the pandemic cannot be an exception; responsible consumption goes from purchase to disposal of the products or packaging ”, added the minister. In general, waste associated with protection against Covid-19 and, especially, masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment, must be deposited in the remainder fraction household (the gray non-separable waste container) and in no case may be abandoned in the public road or in a natural environment.

On the other hand, and with the aim of avoiding the consumption of single-use products, the campaign encourages the use of reusable hygienic masks (UNE 0065 Specification) for use by the population and recommends the use of Single-use gloves only in specific circumstances, being in general it is preferable not to use them and be rigorous with hygiene measures, such as frequent hand washing and avoiding touching the face.