From Wednesday 22 June, Mzansi is no longer required to wear face masks. And while many of us are eager to put all traces of COVID-19 behind us, one thing is left to deal with: what do we do with the stack of masks at home?
First and foremost, it’s vital to keep a couple on hand. Mask requirements may come back to deal with new COVID variants or other highly infectious diseases. As mentioned by Business Insider, by entirely repealing swathes of post-lockdown regulations, Phaahla gave up the power to turn the mask mandate on and off as he sees fit. He can, however, reimpose masks through a new mandate at any time.
As minister of cooperative governance, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma can also declare a new national state of disaster and as a result, make masks mandatory once again.
But if you’ve been stockpiling masks, keeping a few in case of an emergency won’t account for all of them and dealing with disposable masks is not a simple matter.
Unfortunately, disposable plastic masks are not suitable for typical recycling channels, and reusable cloth masks are also hard to recycle like nearly anything made from fabric. Furthermore, face masks, both plastic and cloth, come with the real risk of carrying a deadly virus so they can’t simply be added to your household recycling.
In answer to this issue of waste management, there have been a couple of innovative suggestions for how consumers can deal with the masks they no longer need:
- Fabric masks can be reused as clothing patches.
- Make golfball and dog-eye cleaning wipes.
- Spoil your pets with hamster hammocks, or hammocks for baby bunnies.
The public can try these small innovations, but in reality, virtually all masks are most likely going to end up in landfill sites or bodies of water, becoming part of the long-running problem of dealing with general waste.
As we say goodbye to masks, hopefully forever, it’s important to lessen the impact these masks may have on the environment, just make sure you remember to cut the rubber bands on both sides of a disposable mask before disposing of it.