Ecotip – Facemasks – a hidden problem

by Phil Chatfield

From 15 June 2020 it is mandatory to wear facial masks or coverings when using public transport in England. Many people are already using them in shops, or even when out walking or driving. It is inevitable we will see a massive increase in the use of PPE, or personal protective equipment.

According to an analysis by scientists at University College London, if every person in the UK used one single-use mask each day for a year, an extra 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste would be created and have ten times more climate change impact than using reusable masks. However, according to transport secretary Grant Shapps2 ‘a face mask doesn’t mean surgical masks, which we must keep for clinical settings, it means the kind of face-covering you can easily make at home’ Using a washable, reusable face mask means supplies of clinical PPE remain available for the people on the frontline who really need them, and also we can massively reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste being created.

Facemasks are relatively easy to make and a number of simple designs can be found on the internet3. To find out more about the problem with PPE and buying and using a reusable mask, see the City to Sea web site at:




Web sites accessed 16 June 2020

Based on information from City to Sea