An incredible 53 million disposable face masks sent to landfill in UK every day

A staggering 53 million disposable face masks are being sent to landfill in the UK EVERY DAY new studies have suggested.

Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 3:33 pm

It comes amid increasing reports that many face masks are ending up being carelessly discarded in the street ending up in streams and rivers.

Charlotte Green from waste company TradeWaste.co.uk said: “If you walk around any street now you will see disposable face masks being blown around with leaves in the gutter – they are the new cigarette butt – people are simply chucking them after use.

"We know that 53 million are being sent to landfill each day – but just how many end-up elsewhere is the very scary part.”

53 million masks are being binned in the UK every day.
53 million masks are being binned in the UK every day.

Now that face mask wearing has become a standard part of lockdown life, their disposal is being highlighted as a major new environmental crisis, with masks being found in streams, rivers, and oceans – like the modern-day plastic bottle.

Disposable face masks are typically made from plastic in 3 layers:

Non-woven plastic fabric outer

Melt-blown polymer filter such as polypropylene

Non-woven plastic fabric inner

Other – cotton ear loops and metal nose piece

The other issue with a disposable mask are the ear loops and metal piece used to grip the nose – they can become entangled around animals and wildlife, especially when they end up in water courses.

A survey of 4,500 members of the UK public by TradeWaste.co.uk found that the numbers of masks being discarded daily are truly staggering:

58.8 million face masks are being used daily in the UK.

10% are reused, 90% are discarded

53.3 million face masks are sent to landfill each day

Globally we are using 129 billion masks per month

The main problem is that they are specifically designed to be chucked away after each use. In a medical setting this is controlled, but out in towns and cities they are thrown in residential and street waste bins for landfill.

“We as a country need better disposal methods to cope with the huge numbers of disposable masks being thrown away, most cannot be recycled. If restrictions and mask use continue then this issue is going to get progressively worse – action needs to be taken today,” she said.