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Recycling Masks in Covid-19

Recycling Masks in Covid-19

Recycling of waste is a golden rule in environmental management and protection. Communities are encouraged to recycle waste so as to reduce pollution and most importantly cost. This beautiful lesson is highly being put into practice with the use of masks in the prevention of COVID19 in some communities.

Among the measures put in place by the government compulsory wearing of facemasks is the only that attracts a fine when violated. This fine has thus increased the level of people’s consciousness making everyone in the street having a mask on. Whether it is the right quality or it is worn correctly is a question for another time because the confusion and mix up is chaotic.

I sat on the sofa wondering what tasks to do since anxiety is making me psychologically unstable when I heard my little girls laughing out and making comments. I moved over to also relax and be entertained. I discovered they were watching different videos on YouTube on how to produce a face masks. I joined in the learning. There was this production done with a socks that caught my attention.  It was so easy to make and had a very good fitting on the face. I remember my son telling me mummy let’s try it. I still have a new pair of cotton socks that we can use the boy convinced me. I thought to myself why not give it a try. We quickly got a pair of scissors and a socks and tried out what we learned on YouTube. With five cuts on the socks we got a fitting facemasks. What was lacking was the cotton liner to fit inside the socks.

We decided to bake a cake too which we learned on the same YouTube. We were celebrating a day well spent for we had learned something new. With the school lockdown self-learning is a must do. While we were waiting for the cake to done my eldest daughter ran to show me another video. I dismissed her thinking it was another YouTube learning for in my mind we have done enough for one day. She insisted saying mummy this is so bad and will increase the spread of the virus they are trying to prevent. That’s serious so I said let me see the video behold i saw recycling of facemask going on. A good quantity of carelessly disposed used face masks were being washed by some people. The story accompanying the post tells of them washing and selling after that. This revelation left me devastated because I couldn’t help but worry about the contamination this process will bring to a vulnerable population.

Yes ignorance is expensive as many people say. If not of ignorance what could possibly be the explanation for picking up a used masks to wash and reuse or sell? What is the status of the previous user of the mask? If the mask has the virus then during washing those washing will get contaminated. This same people will pick up the mask when it gets dry and that will mean contaminating the mask. What will be the fate of the next user?

 I told myself when history means nothing to a people errors are bound to be committed. This situation with the masks is no different from what happened in those days of HIV/AIDS with used condoms. Then children picked up used condoms disposed carelessly and were inflating with their mouths like balloons. Here we are almost three decades down still facing disposal issues. Why do we promote ignorance and its effects at all levels? Besides this washing of used masks there is the issue of joint use of mask by family members to avoid government fines. Whoever is going out wears the mask. Imagine the risks they are running. This is just like the use of a razor blade by traditional doctors on many persons which led to transmission of the HIV virus. Could this also be more than just ignorance to include poverty?

I feel comforted by the number of CSOs and CBOs who have engaged in the prevention of spread of COVID19 within our communities. A lot of gadgets and information on the prevention of COVID19 has been provided to the people. I feel the missing angle is ample information on disposal of used gadgets. The fight must take into consideration all possible backlash and work to address this.

I am guilty here as well because as a social advocate I need not see faults without contributing to fix it. I think sharing my views on how to fix it will heal me of guilt and save many. First let me eat a slice of cake we baked to celebrate lessons learned.

The roll back of COVID19 is collective effort with each and everyone’ contribution being indispensable to make the whole. We must not politicize the fight nor should we play the blame game to stay righteous or play the victim. After a deep reflection I cane to realise that staying passive makes you as guilty as those who do the things wrongly.  After finishing the four slices of cake served me I could think of the following:

  • Proper disposal of used face masks should be a priority component of the prevention package being given to the population by the government CSOs or CBOs
  • Recycling of used masks could either be stopped by providing free masks by the local councils of each community funded by the government central funds as well as CSOs or CBOs donations. Or a medically tested method of recycling used masks be proposed to the population
  • In addition to the existing information on the prevention of COVID19, cost effective methods to produce a face mask with locally available tissue should be prioritized.
  • A personal commitment to do the right thing and contribute in the prevention by spreading the right information should be the goal of everyone.

I may not have been thinking straight due to fear and anxiety of the disease since I am confused. One thing that stands out in all of this mix up is corona virus needs more of a unified action than individualistic thinking. It is paradoxical because it upholds tenets of individualism but impact is more on collectivism. I need to take a nap for I feel I am stressed now

Sally Mboumien Maforchi

Secondary School Teacher/PhD Student, University of Bamenda, Cameroon

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