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Disposable masks banned to curb pollution

What if environmental needs were valued above human health?

2022 — NEW ZELAND has banned the use of disposable face masks for anyone other than front-line health workers but has not relaxed the mask mandate.

A new law introduces strict use and disposal rules for personal protective equipment, including surgical masks, gloves and goggles.

Only medical staff in patient-facing roles will be allowed to use single-use face masks made of plastics and equipment must be burned or disposed of in a way that does not allow microplastics to be released into the environment.

Anyone who breaches the new rules risks a $20,000 fine and three years’ jail. However, masks are still required indoors.

The controversial private member’s bill won a narrow victory with cross-party support.

The Green Party argued that protecting the country’s environmental credentials was more important for the economy than retail spending, productivity or tax reform and that the widespread and indiscriminate use of masks was a public health failure.

“We will be treating environmental illnesses for decades to come.”
Pensioners’ groups lobbied against the change saying cloth masks were not as effective and would put the elderly at greater risk of disease.
However, some environmentalists suggested fewer people was exactly what the planet needed.

Sales of sewing machines spiked in anticipation of the new rules, with major retailers struggling to source new stock.

Inspired by
New research on the repercussions of COVID-19 on the use and management of plastics: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.est.0c02178