Improper mask disposal raises concerns

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 4:56 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — As people decide to mask up once again, some are raising concerns over masks being littered around Southern Idaho.

But the eyesore of these masks can mean bad things for the ecosystems here in Southern Idaho.

“Most of those disposable masks are plastic, and so when they make their way into waterways, and they’re surprisingly good at getting there, they are a problem for many organisms that might view them as something that looks edible,” said Jan Simpkin a biology professor at The College of Southern Idaho.

When they’re consumed, choking can pose a big issue, but choking isn’t the only thing that can cause problems.

“Plastic doesn’t disappear in the environment it gets smaller and smaller and smaller, and then we find it getting onto organisms low in the food chain,” said Simpkin

“So things like bacteria and algae and then when organisms eat that they’re consuming plastic and the further up the food chain you go, the more plastic they’re eating.”

Simpkin says the only way to properly dispose of a disposable mask is to take it off, and throw it in the garbage can once you’re done, and if you’re outside make sure it’s in a place where the wind can’t blow it around.

“If you can it’d be nice to cut the bands that go around your ears and that just keeps them from being hooked around an animal.”

But in terms of recycling?

“I wish I could say recycle them but there just isn’t a way to do it sadly,” said Simpkin.

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