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Article

COVID-19 Face Masks as a Long-Term Source of Microplastics in Recycled Urban Green Waste

Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O. Box 789, Albury, NSW 2640, Australia
Academic Editor: John Rennie Short
Sustainability 2022, 14(1), 207; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010207
Received: 24 November 2021 / Revised: 15 December 2021 / Accepted: 18 December 2021 / Published: 26 December 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pandemic and the City: Urban Issues in the Context of COVID-19)
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, many governments recommended or mandated the wearing of fitted face masks to limit the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus via aerosols. Concomitant with the extensive use of non-sterile, surgical-type single-use face masks (SUM) was an increase of such masks, either lost or discarded, in various environmental settings. With their low tensile strength, the spunbond and melt-blown fabrics of the SUM are prone to shredding into small pieces when impacted by lawn cutting equipment. Observations highlight the absence of smaller pieces, which are either wind-dispersed or collected by the mower’s leaf catcher and disposed together with the green waste and then enter the municipal waste stream. As proof-of-concept, experiments using a domestic lawn-mower with different height settings and different grass heights, show that 75% of all pieces of SUM fabric caught in the catcher belonged to sizes below 10 mm2, which under the influence of UV light will decay into microfibers. The implications of SUM generated microplastics are discussed. View Full-Text
Keywords: COVID-19; personal protective equipment; face masks; littering; municipal waste management; green waste; microplastics COVID-19; personal protective equipment; face masks; littering; municipal waste management; green waste; microplastics
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MDPI and ACS Style

Spennemann, D.H.R. COVID-19 Face Masks as a Long-Term Source of Microplastics in Recycled Urban Green Waste. Sustainability 2022, 14, 207. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010207

AMA Style

Spennemann DHR. COVID-19 Face Masks as a Long-Term Source of Microplastics in Recycled Urban Green Waste. Sustainability. 2022; 14(1):207. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010207

Chicago/Turabian Style

Spennemann, Dirk H. R. 2022. "COVID-19 Face Masks as a Long-Term Source of Microplastics in Recycled Urban Green Waste" Sustainability 14, no. 1: 207. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010207

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