You may have been recommended to use reusable masks rather than single use face masks, but why should we use reusable face coverings when disposable ones seem just as good?
There are many reasons to switch from disposable face masks to reusable ones. Reusable face masks are better for the environment, don’t litter streets, and won’t end up in the sea. They are also more comfortable, offer more protection to the wearer and those nearby, save you money in the long run and just as importantly can be personalised to suit your style.
This article will explain why we should use reusable masks and the advantages of wearing reusable rather than disposable face coverings.
One of the most important reasons why we should use reusable face masks is that they are much better for the environment. Single use face masks are made from polypropylene, a plastic that takes as long as 450 years to decompose. As it does, it releases microplastics into the environment, which will eventually end up in our waterways and oceans.
It’s been estimated that1.56 billion face masks entered the oceans in 2020, adding up to 6,240 metric tonnes of plastic pollution to our seas. This plastic will remain there for hundreds of years and is often mistaken for food by marine life, causing serious harm to natural ecosystems that are already struggling with plastic waste.
In contrast, reusable face masks don’t add to this waste problem to nearly the same extent. Rather than being binned after a single use, they have the advantage of being machine washable meaning they can be cleaned and reworn.
Single-use disposable face masks are also adding enormous pressure to local authorities who are tasked with collecting and disposing of masks which have been discarded in streets, beaches and the countryside.
From a health perspective, these temporary masks which litter our streets also create new challenges. A hospital has special clinical methods to dispose of contaminated protective equipment, which is not the case for most local authorities. Disposable masks that are discarded on busy streets increases the risk of accidental exposure to the virus.
One final but important benefit to using reusable face masks is that it saves you money. Most reusable face masks are machine washable, meaning they can be cleaned and reused rather than requiring you to buy a new mask. Although the upfront cost might be higher, the long term effect is that this actually saves you money.
Organic cotton is a great alternative to disposable face masks for those of you who are environmentally concerned, as it is a fully biodegradable fabric and takes just under half a year to decompose.
Organic cotton is better than regular cotton as it doesn’t contain as many harmful chemicals left over from the manufacturing process. When it is eventually disposed of it will naturally biodegrade without releasing harmful toxins.
Organic cotton is also better for you. Most conventional cotton is grown with highly toxic pesticides and fertilizers, then treated with harsh chemicals during the manufacturing process to produce the clothes that we wear. Some of these chemicals are still in the cotton fibre and cannot be washed out, which is why organic cotton can be a safer and healthier material for face masks.
It’s important to know what to look out for when choosing the perfect sustainable, organic or ethical face mask. One that is loose fitting or uncomfortable isn’t going to offer much protection, especially if you have to keep readjusting it.
This is another advantage of a well fitting reusable face mask. It often fits better and leaves no air gaps around the side of your face compared to a loose fitting disposable mask.
Every time you are forced to adjust your mask or touch your face you increase the risk of infection. So comfort, wearability and choosing a well fitted mask are all key to fighting the virus.
Multi-layered masks are often better than single layered masks. Adding more layers to a reusable mask increases the chance of trapping vapours, two to three layers is optimum.
Tightly woven cotton is actually one of the most effective materials for face masks, as the fabric’s high thread count helps trap moisture droplets without making it difficult to breathe.
If you are interested in finding out more, we have created a separate article on what to look out for when choosing the perfect face mask.
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