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Masks Illustration of Used Masks
Masks Illustration of Used Masks. (Source: Limpido/iStockPhoto)

During the pandemic, masks are one of the important items and of course used by everyone in carrying out their daily activities. The use of this mask is also one part of universally-accepted health protocol, since wearing a mask can protect someone from Covid-19 infection.

Reporting from covid19.go.id, the Covid-19 Task Force explained that using this medical mask will provide up to 30% to 95% protection from Covid-19 virus infections, depending on the type of mask used. However, the Covid-19 Task Force also ensures that medical masks are more effective in protecting against the Covid-19 virus compared to the use of cloth masks, which are only 10% effective.

Various types of masks used will certainly increase the volume of mask waste. The DKI Jakarta Environment Agency (DLH) has collected as much as 1.5 tons of medical mask waste or disposable masks during the Covid-19 pandemic in Jakarta, calculated from April to December 2020. The number is so high since disposable mask is only allowed to be used once with a maximum period of only 6 hours. After that, the mask must be discarded. These masks will produce medical waste that cannot be disposed carelessly. If you take the wrong steps when disposing of medical masks, it can lead to the transmission of Covid-19.

Green Generation, we may have heard a lot about cases of reselling of disposable masks by irresponsible people when the scarcity of masks occurred in the early days of the pandemic. To prevent this from happening again, we need to manage disposable masks in the right way because, in addition to facilitating the management of mask waste, we can also help prevent this from happening again.

Based on the Community Mask Waste Management Guidelines released by the Ministry of Health in March 2020, we can implement these following steps to manage disposable medical masks:

Collect Disposable Masks

Illustration of Used Mask Waste
Illustration of Used Mask Waste. (Source: Kaldera News)

Ideally, disposable medical masks shouldn’t be used for more than 6 hours because it will reduce the effectiveness of the mask. However, as we do our activities outside of home, we need to change the medical mask up to 3-4 times which must be discarded. We can replace the mask we are using if the mask is wet, torn, or too humid.

After changing the mask, we need to collect the used masks before throwing them in the trash, especially if we don’t have time to properly dispose of the used masks.

Disinfection of Used Masks

Illustration. (Source: Anshu A/Unsplash)

The next step after collecting used masks is that we can disinfect them by soaking the finished masks in a disinfectant or chlorine solution.

Reshape Used Masks

Illustration of Cutting Out Used Masks
Illustration of Cutting Out Used Masks. (Source: Antara News)

After soaking the used masks in a disinfectant solution, take an important but sometimes forgotten step for some people: tearing or cutting the used masks.

We can change the shape of used masks by cutting the mask into two parts, damaging the mask strap by severing the two ropes so that the mask is not reused or stuck on objects or other living things. Reshaping used masks can certainly help prevent them from being reused by irresponsible people.

Throw In The Trash

Illustration Of Disposing Of Used Masks
Illustration Of Disposing Of Used Masks. (Source: Beauty Journal)

According to the Minister of Environment and Forestry, we can dispose used masks in special mask bins available in public spaces or yellow trash cans that accommodate infectious waste.

However, if we can’t find trash can for masks, we can tightly wrap the used masks with transparent plastic to make it easier for medical staff to process their waste and dispose medical mask waste in the household bins.

Washing Hands

Illustration of Washing Hands With Soap
Illustration of Washing Hands With Soap. (Source: Melissa Jeanty/Unsplash)

Finally, don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and running water. When it’s inconvenient to find an adequate place to wash our hands, we can use a hand sanitizer with minimum 70% alcohol content.

Currently, many institutions in Indonesia are trying to recycle medical waste. One of them is the Parongpong Raw Lab which innovates by collecting used mask waste and then using the rope and polymer contained in the mask as a substitute for sand because sand is included in the category of non-renewable resources.

Raw Parongpong Lab is a company management / waste management training to separate garbage, recycle, and prevent litter residues from reaching landfills (TPS) or landfills (TPA) to be managed independently by the waste generator.

Our health is a priority during this pandemic. But, wouldn’t it be nice if we could take care of our health and the environment as well? Managing medical mask waste can be a simple implementation of the principles of sustainable consumption and production, which protects us, waste officers who are vulnerable to COVID-19, and others from this pandemic.

Written by: Yohanna Christiani



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