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The environmental consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Disposable masks Disposable masks in landfill could take 500 years to break down

The COVID-19 pandemic continues and as the Government seeks to avoid a second wave of infections people working in or entering hospitals are required to wear surgical masks. Masks or face covering are required when shopping or using public transport. The BBC reports that factories in south Wales and Lancashire have started making ‘high quality’ face coverings as part of a push to produce a million a week.1 The French government has ordered 2 billion disposable face masks from China.2

What happens to a mask when it is discarded?

In domestic settings disposable face masks should be put in domestic waste.3 Figure 1 outlines the disposal of masks in clinical settings including nursing homes. It is estimated that the NHS will use 15 million orange bags a month during the COVID-19 response.4

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