What’s the deal with the face masks?

Two weeks ago, we shared an article on our Facebook page tackling the increase in face mask litter in Cardiff and asked you a simple question: What has been your experience? Let us tell you, the response upset us. The responses varied from: “finding them everywhere” to a more specific and horrifying “grounds of the COVID vaccination centre” or “outside my house”. The majority of our Facebook followers are above 60 years old, therefore a part of the high-risk category. Several studies support the notion, that even one improperly discarded face mask could result in a dangerous contagion. Reading about your experience with dog waste stirred up our longing for a sustainable solution.

As opposed to a common belief at the beginning of March 2020, the need to wear face coverings is not leaving us anytime soon. In December 2020, The New York Times published an article explaining why you should keep wearing face masks even once you are vaccinated. While your jab will protect you (up to 95%), you can still infect others, as it is unclear if people who receive the vaccine can spread the virus to others. As you have probably noticed by now, Eco Green Communities are an avid advocate for a sustainable approach where possible. That is why we recommend opting for a cloth mask unless it is necessary to use the surgical alternative.

Regardless, there are many occasions when the single-use mask is the only way to go. Unfortunately, the same face mask, which protected someone could pass the virus on to someone else. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, only it’s the other way around this time. But how can we eliminate situations like the ones described? The virus is not picky and attacks the most vulnerable in our society. Therefore, we have to work towards eliminating carelessness and littering, which increases the number of infections.

There are two reasons face masks are being found on people’s yards, driveways, or vaccination centres. Surgical face masks are lightweight, meaning even if they are discarded in the right manner, a light English breeze might blow them away easily. The second reason is human carelessness and lack of consideration towards others. No solution brings overnight miracles, but we believe in the ‘broken windows theory’. According to research by Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo, no matter how rich or poor a neighbourhood, one broken window would soon lead to many more windows being broken. “One unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.” The theory can be applied to public spaces. If the place could be easily mistaken for a landfill, we are less likely to feel guilty for tainting it further. However, people are less likely to drop litter and pollute their surroundings, if the area is well maintained. Who would like to risk being called out for throwing the remains of their takeaway on fresh-cut, clean grass? Not many. Eco Green Stations by Eco Green Communities aspires to this vision.

Our goal is to instill a sense of responsibility in the general public. Step by step, Eco Green Stations teach residents: we shall be all held accountable for the quality of the environment we live in. If there’s a station with free, recycled litter bags close to hand then what is your reason for not doing your part? It might not be your rubbish, but it’s certainly your planet. Our most recent partner, community group Rise Up Clean Up installed stations with a catchy phrase: “Free bag, instant karma”. Start earning your karma points and we guarantee you that your example will encourage others to follow you. Because feeling good about yourself is contagious, these words have never rung truer than in 2021.

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