Let's face it, thinking of sustainability isn't the first thing that springs to mind while we all learn to live with COVID-19. With lockdown restrictions in some countries, a fall in world economies and immense pressure on health care systems, our environment is also in the firing line. Pinpointed as the new "plastic bottle" disposable face masks pose a huge threat to our ecosystems and to our planet.
Given that surgical masks are supposed to be worn no longer than a day, their disposal along with empty hand sanitiser bottles is leading to a massive trail of waste most of which will end up in our landfill, reservoirs and waterways. Across the globe approximately more than 129 billion single use face masks are in use every month with safe disposal of these along with disposable gloves is fast becoming an environmental disaster for governments and health agencies.
Yes surgical masks are a necessary line of defence for health care workers and for the immune compromised, sick and elderly, our most vulnerable, but for the rest of us we have options. Researchers have advocated the use of face masks by the general public and we've seen how effective this is in avoiding and controlling the spread of corona virus. Until scientists and researchers can fully understand the mode of transmission and a vaccine is found it this seems the only logical approach. It has also been argued that the number of times a person touches their face, mouth and nose with unwashed hands is a highly transmittable way the virus can spread.
So why have some countries fared better than others when it comes to controlling the spread of Covid-19. Let's take Korea, Singapore and Japan for example. For many years the normal standard behaviour when in a crowded public space is to wear a face mask. If you've ever been on a train in Japan pre Covid-19 and noticed you are the only one not wearing face protection, well you would be right you most likely were. Western society has never considered this to be a standard practice while moving around in public. We have always thought this to be something someone else did and at times even questioned it. As we can see now how undervalued this behaviour was and could possibly be the key to living with Covid-19 now and beyond 2020.
Better population practices such as social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing are our only way forward and we need to get on board fast. There has certainly been a shift in peoples behaviour and personal interaction since the start of the pandemic and all things considered we are moving in the right direction. We now need to consider seriously what we can do to play our part that doesn't directly impact on our planet.
"Be the change you wish to see in the world" M.GANDHI