Benefits of Reusable Masks Vs. Wasteful Disposable Masks

If there’s one thing the globe became familiar with during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the face mask. Wherever you went, inside or out, most states and major cities required you to be wearing one at all times. It became a way of life for the citizens of the world. Chances are, you not only always carried two or three on you, but you also carried some in your vehicle.

Masks were of the disposable variety or the longer-lasting cloth variety. Like the American Express ads of yesteryear, “Don’t leave home without it,” became your mantra.

However, for many workers in the U.S. and abroad, the face mask has always been a familiar tool of the trade. Many of the face masks construction and industrial workers wear every day are manufactured from heavy plastic and complex filtering systems. And yet, many of these masks can be considered non-eco-friendly and disposable, which places yet more stress and pressure on already full-to-capacity local landfills.

According to manufacturers of the reusable N95 mask, you should never have to purchase a disposable respirator again. The filters mounted to their molded elastomeric, silicone, and thermoplastic rubber masks are entirely reusable. This means less waste to toss away.

That said, even today, in a post-pandemic world, everyday people still find themselves compelled to wear masks to ward off all the different variants of COVID-19 that seem to spring up at least once per year. This is especially true for the aging population, who are the most vulnerable and therefore anxious about getting sick.

So, the question remains: what are the benefits of reusable masks vs. disposable masks? A recent report by Cariki claims your doctor or a close associate may have recommended that you utilize a reusable mask as opposed to a single-face mask. However, why is it so important to wear a reusable mask when a disposable one seems like the better, cleaner solution?

There are a variety of reasons to make the switch from disposable face masks to reusable ones. This goes for workers who require them and people who feel they need to wear a mask to ward off even the common flu. The simple answer is that reusable face masks are better for the environment. They don’t litter the landscape, fill up the landfills, or end up in the sea. They are also said to be more comfortable than disposable masks while providing more protection to the wearer. They will also save you money.

Bad for the Environment

One of the most glaring reasons reusable face masks should be avoided is that they are terrible for the environment. Single-use masks are typically constructed of polypropylene. It is said to take close to 500 years for this material to decompose. While decomposition takes place, it releases microplastics into the air, which end up in water sources.

It’s also said that more than 1.5 billion face masks ended up in the oceans during the pandemic in 2020, which produced over 6,000 metric tons of plastic pollution in the seas. This has caused serious harm to the aquatic ecosystem.

Benefits of Reusable Masks

Says Cariki, reusable face masks do not add to the pollution problem as much as their disposable counterparts. Rather than being disposed of after a single use, they are washable. In the case of an industrial mask, filters can be switched out for clean ones, but the mask itself does not require replacing until it wears or becomes unsafe to use.

When it comes to medical reusable masks, local authorities no longer need to spend precious time going from street to street, collecting these potentially infected products and disposing of them in bio-hazard waste collectors.

Finally, reusable masks of all types simply save you money in these trying economic times.

What to Look for in a Face Mask

You should be aware of what to look for when it comes to selecting the right sustainable, eco-friendly face mask. An uncomfortable or loose-fitting mask won’t offer a lot of protection. This holds true if you’re forced to constantly readjust it.

Good-fitting masks should leave no gaps around the sides of your face like the kind left by loose disposable masks, which offer little to no protection. Every single time you readjust your mask, you increase the likelihood that you will either get sick or infected.

In the end, whether you’re masking up for protection against a virus or against breathing in toxins and contaminants found in an industrial setting, a reusable mask will always be the preferred choice, both for health and economic reasons.

Elise Wu

Elise Wu, an alumna of Yale University with a degree in Environmental Policy, has spent more than two decades advocating for environmental protection and sustainable resource management. Before joining our website in 2019, she worked with various NGOs and governmental bodies, playing a key role in developing eco-friendly policies. Besides her professional pursuits, Elise is also a passionate hiker and loves nature photographer, often exploring the untamed wilderness to reconnect with the environment she tirelessly works to preserve.

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