WITH the fear of contracting Covid-19, the majority of Malaysians now wear a face mask when they go out; it has become a must-have item.

What is worrisome is that millions of these used masks are being disposed indiscriminately.

Used masks pose public health risks. Should the masks be tossed in a confined space such as an elevator, they may pose a potential threat.

While masks used by health frontliners and patients are treated as medical waste (and disposed to strict rules) – the same cannot be said of masks worn by the public.

The standard practice upon reaching home is for us to remove our masks and throw it in a bin. The masks not separated but dumped into the same bin together with other household trash. We are mixing contaminated masks with household waste. What if one member of the family is asymptomatic?

The way forward:

PLEA: Appeal to all Malaysians to exercise duty and care in the disposal of the used masks to protect fellow Malaysians and the environment;

EDUCATION: The authorities should heighten awareness and enlighten the public on the correct way to dispose of used masks. For instance, folding and then wrapping the mask into a plastic bag before throwing them away, so that the masks are not exposed to the air. The authorities should provide clear guidelines;

REMINDERS: There should be posters and stickers to remind the public of the need to dispose masks safely;

RECYCLING: If the public wish to reuse/recycle the masks, the right and hygienic way to do so should be made known; and

LEGAL: If all else fails, a law should be enacted to impose a heavy penalty on those who do not dispose used masks properly.

For starters, place special dedicated bins at public places like train stations, supermarkets, shopping malls, schools and government departments?

All offices and businesses should have special bins to dispose masks.

In addition, communities and neighbourhoods are encouraged to place bins meant for used masks.

We have convinced most Malaysians to wear masks when they are at public places. Let’s go one step further by infusing into them the importance of disposing used masks in a responsible manner.

Pola Singh

Kuala Lumpur

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