The danger of not knowing how to dispose of facemasks

By James Macharia

Researchers have expressed the danger that the facemasks are posing to the environment with some believing that the effects will be long-term.

When Covid-19 first hit the country in March 2020, one of the containment measures that were put in place by the national Government through the Ministry of Health is the wearing of a facemask especially in public gatherings.

Over one year down the line, it has been a fashionable style to have a mask on face. But in the name of solving a problem, we may be creating another.

Gilbert Atunga, a researcher at Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) reveals that Kenya uses approximately 714 million facemasks monthly, translating to a whopping 23.8 million masks daily.

But where do all these masks go after use?

They are all disposed in the surrounding environment recklessly. Atunga draws a picture that previously did not seem to be clear in Kenyan’s minds, but now it resonates with them.

When it rains, the surface runoff carries with itself all that it finds on its way. These facemasks are deposited in water bodies like rivers, dams and oceans, dealing a threat to the marine life.

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Director General Mamo Boru on Monday April 26, 2021 fired a shot of warning to Kenyans against reckless disposal of facemasks. His words were amplified by Makueni Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Chief Officer Mary Mbenge.

“There should be no reckless disposal of facemasks. It is threat to our environment and even our marine life,” Boru said.

The facemasks threat comes after the government issued a ban on the use of plastic carrier bags in 2017, as it posed the same danger as the facemasks is doing.

In a research conducted in 2019, results revealed that 22,000 tonnes of plastic waste was produced daily.In 2020, Kenya received a donation of 3.3 million dollars from World Bank to enhance proper disposal of medical and laboratory waste products.

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