We're over a year into the pandemic, and disposable masks and gloves litter parking lots and streets. The last thing this planet needs is more single use plastic. Here are 5 eco-friendly alternatives to disposable COVID supplies.
- Reusable Masks
Masks have been proven to reduce the spread of COVID and save lives, but single use masks are harming the environment. Dispasable surgical masks contain "polypropylene and/or polyethylene, polyurethane, polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyacrylonitrile, which add plastic or microplastic pollution to the environment," according to a journal article in Environmental Challenges. Microplastics are harmful to the environment and kill fish and birds when ingested.
Similar to opting for reusable cloth tote bags instead of disposable plastic grocery bags, wearing reusable cloth masks instead of disposable medical masks is an easy eco-friendly switch. You can buy reusable masks from small businesses or you can sew your own using any of the hundreds of free patterns online.
- Biodegradable Gloves
Doctors and nurses aren't the only ones wearing gloves to protect themselves from germs. Many people slip on a pair of latex, nitrile or vinyl gloves when grocery shopping. Disposable gloves are unrecyclable and can take decades to break down, according to Clarify Green.
- Liquid Cleaners
Aerosol sprays such as Lysol and disposable wipes such as Clorox wipes are the top choices for disenfecting surfaces to protect from COVID, but both types of products damage the environment. Aerosol sprays contribute to climate change, according to National Georaphic. Disposable wipes are single-use and contain synthetic fibers that prevent the wipe from breaking down, according to Green Matters.
An alternative to these products is liquid cleaners you can use with a cloth rag. Bleach-based cleaners paired with a rag can be used to sanitize countertops, doorknobs, and other high-touch surfaces. The rags can be washed and reused. The spray nozzles and staws on spray cleaners are not recyclable, but they can be reused as long as you research what cleaners can safely be combined.
After taking your mask off, you may be tempted to wipe your face with a face wipe. I know the gross feeling is something you want gone as soon as possible if you've been wearing the mask for a long period of time. Face wipes are made of non-biodegradable fibers and are notoriously bad for the environment, according to Tree Hugger.
The best alternative would be to wait until you get home and to wash your face with facewash. Not only is facewash a better option environmentally, but it is also much more effective in cleaning your skin.
- Soap or Hand Sanitizer
After touching a high contact surface such as a credit card pinpad or a grocery store door, many people clean their hands. Some people use disposable anti-bacterial wipes to clean their hands. Like all other types of wipes mentioned, disposable hand wipes are bad for the environment. These wipes end up in landfills or oceans and are a danger to sea creatures, according to Green Cleaning Products.
The use of these wipes typically occurs when leaving a store, and many wipes end up thrown into the parking lot. Because people usually clean their hands on their way to their car or inside, soap and water may not be the most accessible choice, but hand sanitizer can work until you make it home to your sink.
Health and safety come first in this pandemic, but we can't ignore the environment. Having access to these environmentally-friendly alternatives is a privilege, and one we should be taking advantage of to reduce the impact of this pandemic on the world around us.