A disposable but improperly discarded face mask sits on a wall outside a downtown Salmon Arm business. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

A disposable but improperly discarded face mask sits on a wall outside a downtown Salmon Arm business. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Editorial: Don’t like using disposable masks, go reusable

Others shouldn’t have to pick up improperly discarded face masks

Transitioning away from our throw-away-society is a worthwhile cause, but it is no excuse to not bin a used, disposable face mask.

Recently, posts have been circulating on social media comparing the momentum across our country towards the banning single-use plastic bags and straws, which the federal government now supports (along with six pack rings, plastic utensils and some food containers), with the use of disposable face masks. Well, maybe not their use (that depends on the motivations of those sharing the post), but with how some people are not disposing of them properly.

If you’re looking for a logically reasoned argument behind this comparison, good luck. But it still raises apoint.

Chances are you’ve seen disposable face masks crumpled up on the ground or placed on something near a store – perhaps even near a waste bin. Maybe it was dropped by mistake, or maybe it was intentionally left behind by someone opposed to mask requirements. Regardless, the responsibility to safely dispose of that mask now falls upon someone else – a city worker, a store employee, custodial service personnel, etc. – someone who may be paid to clean up after us, but shouldn’t have to deal with a potential health risk we should be able to easily dispose of ourselves.

Recycle BC says disposable masks, gloves and wipes are not accepted recyclable materials. If you are opposed to the “disposable” aspect of disposable masks, as with straws and bags there are also reusable masks. To stop the potential spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) advise using masks with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric that cover your nose and mouth. Masks with exhalation valves or vents are not supported.

The CDCP says reusable masks should be washed regularly. They can be washed with your regular laundry, in the warmest appropriate water setting.

Regardless of one’s stance face masks, we can still respect others by picking up after ourselves.

Read more: Dispose of your face masks safely, top doctor urges Canadians

Read more: Salmon Arm raised climate scientist brings expertise to West Coast Environmental Law

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