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Reducing the Instances of Sports Mask Pollution

One of the biggest threats to our environment is pollution. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced another type of pollution, which is face mask pollution.


Face masks are the most prominent symbol of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not only through the masks on our faces, but also by the way they are scattered in the environment. They can be seen littered on the streets, water bodies, and even beaches. Research by a nonprofit organization, OceanAsia, shows that nearly 1.5 billion masks may have found their way to the oceans, leading to further sports mask pollution.

When not properly disposed of, single-use cycling sports masks pose grave environmental risks. The problem is aggravated by the fact that the general public uses them today but does not dispose of them correctly. The masks are made of polypropylene plastic, which can take up to 450 years to decompose upon breaking up into tiny particles. To prevent these masks from ending up in water bodies, you must understand the proper mechanism of discarding cycling sports masks. Here are tips to prevent face mask pollution.

1. Removing the Mask

  • Clean your hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds

Thoroughly scrub your hands with hand soap and warm water, paying special attention to your palms, in-between the fingers, and the top ends of your hands. Wash them for a minimum of 20 seconds, after which you should rinse and dry them with a clean towel.

  • Hold the mask by the ties or ear loops

Your cycling face mask is best grabbed by the hands as opposed to the mask. In case your mask contains ear loops, grab onto them, and if your mask came with straps or ties around them, have them untied and them hang onto those.

  • Pull the face mask away from the face, ensuring that you don’t make contact with the front

With your hands only on the straps, pull the mask gently away from the face. Avoid touching the mask itself the whole time you remove it. This ensures that your hands are not contaminated with the germs that usually collect at the front of the mask.

2. Disposing of the Mask

  • Put the Cycling Sports Mask in a Sealed Bag

Make sure you do not touch the front end of the mask even at this time. After that, seal the plastic bag and ensure, then press out the air so the mask is flat. 

The reason for sealing off the mask in a bag is to prevent any contamination or germs from getting into the surrounding air. In case you cannot get a plastic bag, you can throw the mask straight into a dustbin.

  • Dispose of the face mask and the bag into a trashcan in case you aren’t sick.

The trash can is the safest place to dispose of your mask. The mask should be immediately disposed of and not left to sit on the countertop or the table for long.

Instead of improperly disposing of your mask into a trash can, you should bring it home where you can dispose of it properly. This goes a long way into preventing face mask pollution.

  • If sick, place the bag into a waste container

In case you experience COVID-19 symptoms, have the mask put into a hazardous waste container where it can be properly disposed of. Where there is none nearby, get in touch with your local dumpster to drop it off for you.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. 

Wash your hands again with warm water and soap. Thoroughly scrub your palms, in-between the fingers, and the top of the hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. Then, rinse off your hands and dry them using a clean towel. The aim is to remove any accidental contamination that may have been picked up while disposing of the mask. 

  • Use a cleaning solution to disinfect the sink

No matter how careful you were, it is still possible to spread infection on the mask to the nearby areas. Disinfect the faucet handle, your sink, and any other thing you might have touched. Use an ammonium-based detergent to eliminate any germs. 

Hydrogen peroxide and citric acid are just some of the cleaning products that could already be in your possession.

3. Understanding When to Discard Your Mask

  • When it’s damaged or ripped

If there are visible signs of damage, for instance, a hole, using the mask further becomes untenable. Dispose of your mask and get another one immediately. Masks containing holes cannot effectively keep out germs, which make them pretty much useless.

  • When it is contaminated or dirty

If you suspect having been around an infected person or your mask is dirty, toss it into the dustbin. This way, you ensure that your mask is safe and that you are not inhaling dangerous germs when you have your mask the next time.

Dirt accumulating on the outer part of your mask can make it difficult for you to breathe.

  • When breathing through it becomes too hard

Pollutants in the air can sometimes clog the pores in the mask and block air from getting through. If you find it increasingly difficult to breathe through your mask, it is a surefire sign that you need to discard it. Masks tend to be uncomfortable to put on, but when they hinder you from breathing properly, you need to throw them away immediately.

  • When it gets damp

If fluid or water from someone else gets to your mask, it should be replaced right away. That is because when a mask gets dampened by bodily fluids from an infected person, you stand the risk of being infected as you inhale the air. Also, wet masks are difficult to breathe through.


The COVID-19 pandemic introduced a new type of pollution, the face mask pollution. Even worse, billions of people the world over are using these masks but don’t know the proper way to dispose of them. That means that the vast majority of the masks end up in the water bodies and our environment. To minimize the resulting face mask pollution, understanding the proper way of disposing of these masks is critical. 

Some of the ways you can mitigate this pollution are by setting up mask-only bins for collecting and disposing of masks and switching to reusable masks (for example, cotton masks) instead of disposable ones. 

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