Huon Valley News

Responsible face mask disposal

Have you been noticing face masks littered on the streets, on walking tracks or in waterways?

During the making of this film we found three disposable face masks within 30 minutes littered around Huonville. When face masks are not disposed of properly they become an environmental hazard, especially for wildlife. Birds and marine life can become entangled in the mask’s straps.

A University of Portsmouth study using data collected by citizens found there was a near 9,000 per cent jump in face mask litter across the world during 2020. And US researchers approximate that 3.4 billion single-use face masks are discarded daily as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, globally.

Clean Up Australia chairperson Pip Kiernan told ABC Radio Adelaide during an interview, “We’ve lived through extraordinary times with COVID-19 but it hasn’t been kind on the environment… We are encouraging people to snip those rubber straps before they dispose of them.”

Disposable masks take an estimated 450 years to break down in the environment. She said manufacturers needed to “urgently” reconsider the design of its next generation of personal protective equipment to be both safe, but also “kinder on the environment”.

“This concept of product stewardship, when we design a product and consider what happens to it at the end of its life, needs to be addressed at the outset,” Ms Kiernan said.

Acting Mayor Sally Doyle talks about properly disposing of single-use face masks. The Department of Health also advises you wash your hands all over with soap and water, rinse and dry well or alternatively use alcohol-based hand rub after disposing of your face mask. If you have COVID-19, it advises that used face masks should be placed in a sealed bag and put into a rubbish bin.

If you’d like to get involved with helping with this problem Clean Up Australia have some great projects, check them out here

For all the details about mask wearing and disposing of face masks please visit

Filmed by Mick Lowenstein, Digital Arts and Cultural Development Officer.