Davao City to prohibit improper face mask disposal to avert possible COVID waste crisis

DAVAO CITY – The improper disposal of non-reusable face masks will soon be prohibited in Davao City once the local council here passes the proposed ordinance imposing penalties on violators to avert a possible COVID waste crisis.

The proposed ordinance, authored by 3rd District Councilor Mary Joselle D. Villafuerte, chairman of the Committee on Health, will impose a fine of P500 or reprimand and seminar for the first offense, P1,000 for the 2ndoffense, P2,000 for the 3rd offense, and P3,000 for subsequent offenses.

Section 4 states that all “used face masks should be treated as hazardous and contaminated waste, and as such, proper disposal should be observed in the households by “cutting them in half to avoid their possible reuse” before disposing them in a small garbage bag, ideally yellow in color, and disinfecting them with the recommended bleach solution.

It added that “bags containing the discarded masks must then be properly closed or sealed before disposal, and must be segregated and labeled properly with a written mark which reads "used masks” or by any yellow color indicating the international color code for hazardous waste.

It said disposable face masks should not be flushed in the toilet or drain and must not be thrown into canals, streams, rivers, beaches, or any bodies of water. 

Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) executive director Chinkie P. Golle urged Dabawenyos to properly dispose of personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly face masks, or opt for reusable masks to reduce wastes during the pandemic.

Golle said the improper disposal of face masks in the households amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is alarming.

“We, the general public, are encouraged to move away from disposable PPEs to avert a COVID waste crisis. Let us not allow this health crisis to turn into an even bigger pollution crisis,” she said.

She said masks are made of dense thermoplastics that do not biodegrade when discarded and can stay in the environment for 450 years.

“We call on the public to properly dispose of the PPEs. Most PPEs will just be for one-time use but, of course, as a general public, we are not front-liners so we are calling on the public to use reusable face masks, reusable PPEs. We have to use the reusables so we can contribute to the decreasing amount of PPEs being thrown away,” she said.

Golle said the medical wastes produced for every COVID-19 patient were estimated at 3.4 kilos a day.

She said the improper disposal of face masks is polluting the environment, many of which end up in the shorelines, seas, and oceans.

“We observed that during the lockdown, the volume of plastic wastes, including the PPEs, increased. We wrote to the city mayor, asking her to develop guidelines on how to properly dispose of the PPEs in Davao City,” she added.

Golle called on the City Council of Davao to enact the ban on single-use plastics.

She said that solid waste disposal at sanitary landfill was reported at 614 tons a day in 2019, which is higher compared to 602 tons a day in 2018.