There’s much more waste production during the quarantine. Where to take masks, sanitizers and disposable tableware?

    13 May 2021

    Mask, gloves, sanitizer, “coffee with you”, work from home, travel around the city by car or bicycle, delivery from your favorite restaurant… This is what the “new normality” of city life looks like during a lockdown. However, new threats are emerging.

    One of them is the growth of consumption of plastic products. These things are affordable and convenient, but when used in large quantities pose a threat to the environment.

    We thank Hmarochos for certain tips & tricks on how to deal with the medical stuff we’ve got used to.

    What are the dangers of goods that have become an integral part of the pandemic routine, and how can the harm from their use be reduced?

    How to properly dispose of masks and gloves?

    For over a year, the protective mask has been on the list of things to check when leaving the house, along with keys and a mobile phone. Facial masks have become a key tool in the fight against COVID-19.

    The surgical mask contains biological traces of the person who used it, and therefore belongs to hazardous waste. It’s made of polypropylene – a material that is insoluble in water and which is difficult to recycle even in the case of disinfection.

    A mask thrown on the street can easily get into seawater through sewers and rivers. This increases the amount of debris floating on the ocean surface. Over time, it decays into microplastics, which can enter the body of fish or other marine animals. It will take hundreds of years for these remains to completely decompose in nature.

    Masks should not be disposed of in normal rubbish bins, as this poses a risk of transmitting secondary diseases to other people.

    Latex gloves, which have also been used frequently during a pandemic, decompose somewhat faster (2-4 years), but also belong to the category of hazardous medical waste. In medical institutions before disposal they are disinfected and hermetically packed. Hospitals send hazardous medicines for recycling to licensed companies.

    The possibility of reuse (after washing, ironing or disinfection), on the one hand, is a great advantage of homemade fabric masks. However, such personal protective equipment should not be thrown away with the rest of the rubbish. Microorganisms can remain on the fabric mask even after home disinfection. Therefore, experts advise to dispose it together with other medical waste. The same applies to reusable respirators, which usually have a combination of unlabeled plastic that cannot be recycled.

    If you still have to throw used masks or gloves in the usual trash, they should be pre-treated with disinfectant, you have to cut rubber bands, and then put in separate package. In this way, the biological residues will not spread to the rest of the waste and will pose a minimum threat when they enter the landfill.

    What to do with plastic utensils?

    With the increasing demand for food delivery, the use of plastic utensils in which food is brought increases. Only after a single use do all these products end up in the landfill. In this case, depending on the type of polyethylene, the destruction of such untesils can last from 100 to 400 years.

    Replacing illiquid plastic with liquid can make food delivery more environmentally friendly. We advise you to prefer foil, parchment, paper, stretch film, cardboard boxes and polypropylene (PP) containers. But paper bags with plastic inserts, vacuum film, polystyrene foam containers and transparent containers marked PET 1 and PS is better to give up.

    What are the dangers of coffee cups?

    At first glance, drinking morning coffee from a paper cup on the street is safe and environmentally friendly. But this is not the case.

    In fact, there’s a plastic wrap inside each cup. In fact, when ordering coffee for personal use, one drinks it from a plastic bag every time. A plastic or wax layer keeps hot liquid inside, but prevents paper fibers from being recycled. Due to the combined structure of the coffee cups should not be thrown into urban sorting containers marked “paper”.

    There’s no guarantee that the film inside the glass is marked as Low-density polyethylene (recycling number 4), i.e. suitable for recycling. Instead, cheaper plastic has other properties that can be unpleasant surprises in the production process.

    Therefore, giving up disposable cups in favor of your own cup is the best solution to this problem.

    And what about the sanitizers packaging?

    Even the most eco-conscious citizens and especially businesses during the pandemic were forced to add to the shopping list another plastic package – from the sanitizer. Keep in mind that PET labels will only be accepted for recycling, and LDPE and HDPE labels can be recycled. Bottles with other labels should be sent for disposal. Therefore, before buying a disinfectant, you need to pay attention to the type of packaging.

    Packaging film waste today is one of the most significant components of plastic pollution. Despite the energy-intensive and technologically complex procedures, this material is quite easy to return to production cycles. Convenient for packaging new film can be obtained not from oil, but from the used film.

    Cardboard decomposes relatively easily (several months). However, its processing helps to preserve a valuable natural resource – trees. To do this, it’s first sorted and pressed, and then soaked, disinfected and bleached. All this mass is whipped into foam, which turns into pulp, from which new types of paper are made.

    What is the alternative to single consumption?

    To avoid a garbage apocalypse in a few decades, humanity should abandon the convenient but extremely frivolous culture of single consumption in favor of a culture of recycling and upcycling (artistic reuse).

    These two terms imply the use of fantasy and are the source of inexhaustible topics for conversation. Let’s talk about them in the following articles.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.