Rezero publishes a report on the acquisition and use of reusable masks to protect health and the environment

Report ” Reusable masks: protecting health and the environment

Rezero, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic will leave us with many images, some very painful and others full of hope and solidarity. But if there is an object that can serve as an identification of this period, it is the masks.

After the first months full of messages, often contradictory, about the convenience of their use, it seems that, finally, health authorities and most of the public administrations converge on a single message: masks are necessary and will be accompanying us for a long time. Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and other state territories have already decreed the mandatory use of masks, both in open spaces and in closed spaces open to the public.

Throughout the health crisis, Rezero has been analyzing waste generation trends and alerting, when deemed necessary, about the need to not take steps back in waste prevention and to continue betting on reusable alternatives, while guaranteeing security.

“We must not take steps back on waste prevention and we have to continue betting on reusable alternatives, always guaranteeing safety”.

Rosa García, Rezero

The different epidemiological studies that have been carried out on the survival of the virus on various surfaces and the alerts from health authorities about the danger of spreading the virus linked to the misuse of certain individual protection elements, seem to have stopped the unnecessary consumption of plastic gloves in favor of correct and frequent hand washing.

“Public needs information regarding the sanitary guarantees of reusable masks”.

Rosa García, Rezero

Terrassa Institute for Textile Research and Industrial Cooperation – INTEXTER- UPC has calculated that, if each Spaniard uses two disposable surgical masks per week, they would add up to 94 million masks, generating 220 tons of polypropylene per week. According to data provided by the international movement Break Free From Plastic, the consumption of a mask a day for a year would mean the generation of three billion masks per year globally.

To this generation of unrecyclable plastic waste, we must add the danger of spreading the virus when masks are not thrown away in the right garbage container and the impacts that they can cause on natural and aquatic ecosystems.

Likewise, we found that, currently, citizens who opt for reusable masks do not have enough information about the requirements these masks must meet or the certifications required to ensure that they are truly protective. In fact, the supply of reusable masks is clearly on the rise, but often without any information regarding their degree of filtration or breathability, key factors to guarantee the effectiveness of masks. The European Committee for Standardization is working to harmonize all the different certifications in order to provide this information.

From Rezero, we present an analysis and recommendations to provide citizens with information about the acquisition and use of reusable masks and the technical aspects needed to make them at home.

Rosa García, Rezero

From Rezero we want to help clarify what types of masks exist, in what way they protect, for whom their use is recommended according to the type and, especially, provide concrete information on the use of reusable masks, their cleaning and maintenance or what technical aspects to consider when making homemade masks.

We would like thank Professor Enric Carrera, director of INTEXTER -UPC, for his contributions and for the reviews of this document.

We hope this report is useful for people who want to continue contributing to move towards a zero waste society.