Publication:

Hastings Leader - 2021-10-13

Data:

Covid solution becomes pollution

NEWS

Shea Jefferson

Face masks are now the norm for people moving around Hawke’s Bay in alert level 2. But while they perform the vital function of protecting people from the transmission of the virus, their use has also created an increase in singleuse masks polluting the environment. Single-use face masks are often made from polypropylene, a fossil fuelderived plastic that typically takes centuries to break down. While they’re cheap and efficient, their contribution to street pollution is already being picked up in Hastings. Personal bankers at Hastings ASB Felicia Howard and Tayla Hunnam regularly walk to work via Avenue Rd and noted on recent strolls an increase in the vibrant blue of single-use face masks littering the street. Hastings’ ASB branch manager Sarah Green said the pair had suggested the branch uses paid volunteer hours — allocated yearly to help good causes — to clean them up. “We’re living in a pandemic, so the amount of single-use mask use is really high, globally. We also give the masks out at our work to unmasked customers and can confirm their use is high in Hastings,” Green said. On Friday, the bank dedicated about 40 minutes to sweep the streets of Hastings and collected about a dozen single-use face masks alongside five bags of general rubbish. “We know there are regular sweeps by grounds people in the area but we want to help. Masks are not going anywhere, they’re the new coffee cup and we want to make sure single-use masks make it to the bin,” Green said. The eco-friendly alternatives to single-use face masks are reusable fabric masks, with research under way at universities overseas into biodegradable face masks made from wood fibres and bioplastics. Green said they would like to encourage the use of reusable face masks in the community and to remind people to make sure their single-use masks are thrown into the rubbish bin. “We would love to see more Kiwis opting for reusable masks over single-use, as masks do look to be a fixture of our lives moving forward. “Our team bought their reusable masks from local pharmacies and a member of our team, Alice Hayes, has started trialling homemade masks.”

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