Experts task Lagos on proper disposal of facemasks

Buoyed by reports that about 1.5 billion face marks found their way into the planet’s oceans in 2020, environmentalists have urged the Lagos State government to initiate campaigns against the indiscriminate disposal of face masks.

They noted that despite the vital roles played by facemasks and other protective items in the fight against COVID-19, the materials have detrimental impacts on the environment if not well managed.

They noted that some of the items will end up in the ocean, where they can wreak havoc on the marine ecosystem.

According to them, the report by the conservation organisation, OceansAsia, has raised an environmental threat to aquatic lives.

The environmentalists were also concerned about the lack of campaigns in Nigeria on the impact of improper disposal of face masks and other protective items in the fight against COVID-19.

Highlighting the concern, a Professor of Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Management of the University of Lagos, Prof. Adebayo Otitoloju, said there should be a counter-current campaign for the safe disposal of face masks.

He noted that the nation’s solid waste disposal challenge had made most wastes end up in the ocean.

Governments, he said, should encourage the use of re-usable ones to minimise the ones that enter landfills, stressing that vigorous campaign on proper disposal would help.

According to him, it is essential that as the campaign for the use of masks is on-going, there should be a corresponding campaign on proper disposal of used masks.

He said: “We have to do a sort of counter-current campaign just to enable people to understand that yes, you are protecting yourselves against COVID-19, you just must ensure that you are protecting the environment especially most of these disposable ones have to be disposed of properly.”

Prof. Otitoloju said there should be a designated bin for disposable waste like this kind of medical mask just to encourage people to dispose of it properly.

He urged the Lagos State government to look into the various components of the materials and determine the best way to dispose of them.

Supporting the call, an engineer and founder of Friends of the Environment (FOTE), Joanna Maduka, said innovations that seek to improve renewable energy, and manage wastes should be discarded by the government and other organisations as there are no campaigns against use of plastics and cellophane bags.

According to her, “nobody seems to do any campaign on it now in Nigeria and I am surprised that face masks will not be biodegradable.”

She pledged to work with Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) to start a campaign on it.

Leave a Reply