No matter with vaccines, face masks are going to be around for a very long time, likely years or decades. So it’s good to choose a reusable face mask if you can (although medical staff and others may need to use disposables, for legal reasons). These reusable masks are not replacements for medical grade personal protective equipment, but good for everyone else. Also see the post on zero waste hand wash & sanitisers.
This floral cotton face mask has several layers of fabric, and features stretchy cotton ear loops with adjustable toggle and nose wire, for a snug and comfortable fit around the ears and nose. The masks have a pocket where a filter can be inserted, for added protection (each mask includes a PM 2.5 filter). The 5 layered filters include an activated carbon layer and non-woven melt-blown filter cloth to protect against airborne contaminants.
The government says children under 3 or anyone who is immunocompromised should not be wearing face masks. The masks below are not surgical masks, nor N95 respirators. But for everyday use, wash your hands before putting on the mask, covering your nose and mouth and securing under the chin, ensuring it’s comfy and you can breathe easily.
You should still maintain social distancing (and self-isolate if you have symptoms). Please follow World Health Organisation advice on safe use, and the kind of mask you should wear. Clear Collective (which sells reusable face masks in Australia) has good simple info on how to clean face masks, including valves.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth while removing a mask, and wash hands after handling. Dry in sunlight, and ensure it’s fully dry, before wearing again (best to buy two or more). When you return home, untie the strings and hold the loops, then fold the corners and wash with biodegradable laundry powder (no fabric conditioner, this reduces absorbency). If your face mask is made from synthetic materials, wash in a GuppyFriend (a bag that collects plastic fibres).
Plain cotton face mask are easy to wash and biodegradable. Or choose a set of organic cotton face masks (each one includes soft elastic hooks for the ears, and a nose adjustor to help hold in place – sold with an organic cotton wash bag to launder in).
These children’s reusable face masks (the government does not recommend them for children under 3 due to choking, nor for exemptions) are sold in pretty designs, made from cotton offcuts with an elastic band. The textile offcuts help to reduce fabric waste, from a choice of fun graphic, floral or striped patterns. Choose from black, navy blue, chocolate brown, cream or light blue. Please leave a note if you have a preferred design. The masks are double-layered with a top cotton fabric and soft cotton lining. In sizes 3 to 6 or 7 to 12. Not medical masks.
A Reusable Mask with Protection Filter
Maask (Brighton) is leading the way in creating one of England’s most sustainable face masks. Made from recycled ocean plastic, these can be reused and for each sale, they donate 2 medical grade PPE face masks to front line workers in the UK.
In child or adult sizes, it has an internal pocket which fits their disposable protection filter (recycle the small plastic sterile bag in supermarket bag recycling bins). Wash before use, and swap filters after 69 hours or use or after 1 month. Wash with a GuppyFriend (to stop plastic fibres reaching the sea).
The New Plastic Bottle?
If you have no choice but to wear a disposable mask, then try not to drop it (for instance, keep it in your glovebox in the car if the window’s open, so it doesn’t fly outside in a gust of wind). Dispose of it in general household waste, as soon as it’s damp, then wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. If just 1% of the disposable masks are left in nature, this would create 40 thousand kilos of plastic waste.
With the UK alone throwing out over 50 million masks per day at the height of the pandemic, those that landed up in rivers, oceans and meadows will take 450 years to break down, causing seabirds and others immediate harm (the RSPCA has already had to help over 900 creatures, like birds getting feet caught up in straps). If you do have to use a disposable mask, bin it responsibly, and snip the straps beforehand. The ‘new plastic bottle’ has been causing havoc worldwide, being dropped on land and in oceans, causing harm to wildlife. Vets have also had to give emergency surgery to dogs who have eaten disposable masks left on streets.
Conservationists in France are already finding disposable masks along the coast, ‘floating like jellyfish’ (meaning they are likely to be eaten by turtles, jelly fish being the favourite foods – another reason not to release balloons into the sky, as they also look like jellyfish to marine creatures). Of course medical staff and others have to use disposable face masks, and inventors have already created compostable cellulose versions. But for the rest of us, we can do our bit for both people and planet, by choosing a reusable face mask. So how are they used, and where are they found?
Could Vaccines Have Been Quicker?
We don’t know much abou COVID-19 yet, but a recent study in the British Medical Journal found that vegans get less severity of COVID-19 if contracted, and possibly less chance of contraction (this of course depends on whether they are vaccinated, some refuse due to the drug being tested on animals, others duet o some containing aborted foetuses). The study was conducted across 6 countries, with Professor Francois Balloux saying that the risk tended to be lower, from a decent-sized sample. He did say that one reason was simply that vegans overall tend to follow healthy lifestyles (good weight, not smoking or drinking, regular exercise).
Then we have added concerns over the vaccine itself, with anti-vaxxers dismissed as whackos, and talk of boosters being needed for the future. But if you infect someone else (who then dies leaving family including pets homeless), it’s a difficult dilemma. Most people are not anti-vaccination but increasingly uneasy about the way that governments are going with this:
When I wake to the news that the Austrian government has interned an entire third of its population as a danger to public health, a chill runs down my spine. What the Covid apocalypse has revealed to me is that when people are frightened, they can be very easily controlled. Unless we actively refuse it, our future looks like a QR code flickering across a human face forever. Paul Kingsnorth.
Of course, we all knew this was going to happen: a world where people begin to eat other species without regulation, is likely going to lead to pandemics (mad cow disease, other flus in the past). We are not yet certain how COVID-19 happened, but what’s for certain is that if lessons are not learned, it will happen again
People last, when they do not eat apples that were not meant for them. Paul Kingsnorth
What has stuck in the throat of course with most people is the utter hypocrisy of government, asking sacrificing people to do one thing (often at the worst possible cost – not seeing or holding relatives as they died), then doing something different themselves. Whatever your views on Brexit, it’s telling than many Tory MPs defected due to their beliefs on Europe – yet hardly any due to arguably one of the worst breaches in trust of any government – ever.
Just under two miles separates my corner of London from the garden of Downing Street. I am today, haunted by the tinkling of those glasses there on that sun-drenched night, the echoging of their thin laughter, the stifled chuckles as they practiced their imagined denials and the leadersthip that encouraged it to happen. Their actions feel like direct assaults in the face of my family’s, and all of our shared national tragedy. To me (and I’m sure many others), the revelations of the manifest and repeated failures of those in power to understand, empathise and show solidarty with what the people of this country experienced during that time, have released from the body politic a stench so toxic, that I can’t see how they will be able to put it back in the bottle, no matter how desperately they try. They can’t point the finger anywhere else this time, can they? After all, they brought the bottles themselves. Rory Kinnear (playwright and Bond actor, whose disabled sister died of Covid on May 20, 2020).
Everything You Need to Know About Viruses
Snots, Sneezes and Super-Spreaders is a book of everything you need to know about viruses, and how to prevent them. Discover how viruses are created and spread, in this science-based book for children age 8 to 12. The last few years have shown just how powerful viruses are, as they hold the world in their grip. But what exactly is a virus? Where does it come from and what does it do to our bodies? How does it spread, and what can we do to protect ourselves?
These serious questions are answered with playfulness and humour, along with quirky enlightening illustrations, to bring the text to life. Children will learn about pandemics (in an age-appropriate way without gloom and doom), how vaccines work for viral disease, plus information on icky diseases of the past, and those that still hang around today.
Marc ter Horst studied literature but soon found himself more interested in geology, astronomy and evolution. He has written several books for children, translated into many languages. He lives in the Netherlands. Dr Jennifer Gardy is a science who has worked at British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and is now part of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s malaria team. She lives in Chicago. Illustrator Wendy Panders has illustrated many children’s books. She lives in ther Netherlands.