Working Paper Article Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

What Is the Environmental Impact of Different Strategies for the Use of Medical and Community Masks?

Version 1 : Received: 23 April 2021 / Approved: 26 April 2021 / Online: 26 April 2021 (20:04:46 CEST)

How to cite: Bouchet, A.; Boucher, J.; schutzbach, K.; Senn, N.; genton, B.; vernez, D. What Is the Environmental Impact of Different Strategies for the Use of Medical and Community Masks? . Preprints 2021, 2021040687 Bouchet, A.; Boucher, J.; schutzbach, K.; Senn, N.; genton, B.; vernez, D. What Is the Environmental Impact of Different Strategies for the Use of Medical and Community Masks? . Preprints 2021, 2021040687

Abstract

IntroductionThe use of protective masks, especially medical masks, increased dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis. Medical masks are made of synthetic materials, mainly polypropylene, and a majority of them are produced in China and imported to the European market. The urgency of the need has so far prevailed over environmental considerations.ObjectiveAssess the environmental impact of different strategies for the use of facemaskMethod Different strategies for the use of medical and community masks are being investigated for their environmental impact in this study. 8 scenarios, differentiating the typologies of masks and the modes of reuse are compared using several environmental impact indicators, mainly the Global Warming Potential (GWP100), and the plastic leakage (PL). This study attempts to provide clear recommendations that consider both the environmental impact and the protective effectiveness of face masks used in the community.Results The environmental impact of single-use masks is the most unfavorable, with a GWP of 0.4 -1.3 kgCO2 eq., depending on the transport scenario, and a PL of 1.8 g, for a one month protection against COVID-19. The use of home-made cotton masks and prolonged use of medical masks through wait-and-reuse are the scenarios with the lowest impact.ConclusionThe use of medical masks with a wait and reuse strategy seems to be the most appropriate when considering both environmental impact and effectiveness. Our results also highlight the need to develop procedures and the legal/operational framework to extend the use of protective equipment during a pandemic.

Subject Areas

Facemask; community mask; medical mask; recycling; reuse; carbon footprint; COVID-19

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