A group of local women has been tapped to produce 9,500 washable cloth masks to support informal waste recyclers and their families in Cebu, Manila, and Quezon cities and in the municipalities of General Mariano Alvarez in Cavite and Taytay in Rizal.
The “WeChoose2Reuse” advocacy of the EcoWaste Coalition has partnered with the local women under a grant from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), the largest and oldest environmental organization in Sweden and EcoWaste Coalition’s partner since 2009.
“We have ventured into this reusable fabric face mask project to underline environmental responsibility amid the novel coronavirus public health emergency, which has triggered increased production, use, and disposal of single-use plastic-based face masks that are discarded after use,” EcoWaste zero waste campaigner Jove Benosa said.
“While wearing a face mask has become part of the new COVID-19 (coronavirus) normal, it is not necessary for everyone to don a single-use medical face mask,” he said.
Benosa lamented that “the uncontrolled marketing of throw-away masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) has resulted in these disposables littering streets and ending up in waterways and seas.”
“Efforts are very much needed to prevent and control COVID-19 plastic waste and to ensure that such waste does not cause further harm to the oceans,” he said.
With this project, EcoWaste points out that wearing a reusable face mask is environmentally friendly as it can be simply washed for safe reuse, while stressing the need for everyone to observe good hygiene practices and other COVID-19 protective measures.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “non-medical, fabric masks are advised for use by the general public when physical distancing cannot be maintained, as part of a comprehensive ‘Do it all’ approach, including improving ventilation; cleaning hands; covering sneezes and coughs, and more.”
Meanwhile, WHO has recommended the use of medical masks for all health workers in clinical settings, for persons who are feeling unwell, and for people caring for suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
To address the problem of improper disposal of soiled face masks and other PPE, EcoWaste is working with local government units in getting necessary ordinances adopted.
It noted that General Mariano Alvarez in Cavite, Lapu-Lapu City, and Manila City have so far enacted their respective ordinances.
“By opting for reusable or washable face masks, we avoid generating non-biodegradable and non-recyclable trash that only adds to the worsening plastic pollution crisis. Over time, discarded masks in the oceans will break down into extremely small particles and may contribute to the microplastic contamination of the food supply chain,” the group said.