Mis à jour : 19 nov. 2020

🗣 Let us ask ourselves questions about the products we are asked to buy. 💰

What are their impacts on me 👀 the environment and who benefits from this situation. 🧐

Let's keep in mind, that with the climate emergency, every euro spent is a vote for or against the future of humanity. ✔️

📝 This article answers Hugo's question on Instagram.

The subject? The ecological consequences of the current epidemic, in particular the environmental impact of single-use masks. 😷

We like to tackle subjects in which each individual can at his or her own level easily act for and not against the planet. 🌍

So we won't talk about the shortage of masks at the beginning of the epidemic, or even debate if the mask really helps against COVID ... we let the breaking news channels talking about it.

In any case, the recommendation is there: we should wear a mask.

But what are they made from? And above all, where do they end up?

45 million masks a day 😷

In April, the French government planned to use 45 million masks a day to cover the national needs. 🇫🇷

In one month, about 1.4 billion masks are used in France.

That should be more or less the same situation in Great Britain 🇬🇧, Spain 🇪🇸 and Germany 🇩🇪

If we continue the equation, knowing that a mask weighs about 4 grams, they represent over one month, 5,580 tons of waste, that is the equivalent of one month of household waste of 117,500 inhabitants (Trèves in Germany or Watford in England). 😨

👉 Let's remember that the France or the whole United Kingdom represents only 0.9% of the world's population and the situation on our scale is already so alarming.

So 4 grams per day on a global scale 🌍 ... 👇


It is through plastic that we breathe?

👉 Single-use surgical masks are made from plastic (mostly polypropylene, a hydrocarbon derivative). This plastic is the one commonly used for food packaging, especially of fatty foods.

In theory, this plastic is recyclable, but in practice only 26% of plastic is recycled (in France all types of plastic combined, 2016 figures).

The single-use masks used during COVID are a danger for our planet. 🌍

🚨 The UN estimates that 75% of them should end up in nature. Almost 8 out of 10 masks ... My god ! I want to scream it down the street ! 🗣

However, plastic made from polypropylene takes around 450 years to degrade, during which time toxic particles and additives needed for its manufacture are released, polluting water and soil.

The hospital, champion of the single use ❗️

Single-use masks also raise the question of whether or not to opt for single use masks in hospitals (as is the case hat home). This shift in hospitals was accentuated during the mad cow crisis, as single use was considered more practical at the time.

In China, fighting Covid-19 at the peak of the epidemic, hospitals in the Wuhan region saw their medical waste multiplied by six, due in particular to the millions of masks and other disposable protective equipment used.

The crisis of COVID 19 and the soaring prices 💸 of masks has highlighted some problems related to single use equipments, such as our dependence on Chinese production which is shaking up the country's economy.

To consider single use as cheaper than reusable is an ultra-short termist decision. 🟥 The State is not an example in this matter and as we are not sheep, let us not follow this simplistic method of "buy and throw" because it is easy 🙃

1️⃣ To buy | 2️⃣ to use | 3️⃣ to throw | 4️⃣ to burn at best or to or toxify the soil in the worst case | 5️⃣ And we start again ...

Is this a sustainable way of life for humanity? 👀

Single-use means forgetting to take into account the resources wasted to produce them, the greenhouse gas emissions generated (transport) and the management and incineration of this mass-produced waste.

"Disinfected equipment does the trick."

Philippe Carenco, a medical officer of health, states in his interview with Alternatives Economiques :

"Studies that analyze the life cycle of medical devices, from the raw materials used in their manufacture to the treatment or recycling of waste, including transport, storage, etc., show that reusable devices have a lower environmental impact than single-use."

🗣 He also claims that medical equipment disinfected and sterilized according to standards does the job very well, with some French hospitals still operating on this model.

The levers for individual action?

Even if solutions for recycling ♻️ masks exist, the sector has not yet been developed. The Terra Cycle company has, for example, set up collection boxes in supermarkets and companies with the aim of transforming them into garden furniture. 🪑

With or without a structured mask recycling system, our preferred choice is to produce no waste. 🛑✋

It is towards a way of life with reusable and ethical products that we guide you.


Besides, if you think about it for 2 minutes, why would a single-use mask thrown on the ground be dangerous for nature and not be dangerous for us who breathe through it? 🤨

Response in a few years when the epidemic is behind us...

This article is not intended to convince you to buy the beautiful handcrafted and reusable masks HEBDO ECOLO, but if you really want to do something for the planet and help us finance our actions of depollution 👉 the e-shop is here.

If this article has convinced you that every mask you buy is a danger and that each individual has his own responsibility ... it is already a victory for us!

All you have to do now is spread this message around you 💪 🌱

👉 Fun fact, it seems that single-use masks can be reused after leaving them in an envelope for a week. So if you still have some left at home, here are the recipe. (French)

To sum up

Now that we know that citizens and hospitals are the champions of disposable products, we must now act. 🏃

Otherwise, the masks will end up as the number one of oceans pollution source in the today, largely occupied by cigarette butts.

In short, we often tend to think that our daily and individual decisions have little impact on the environment. This is true, since there are not 7.8 billion human beings who are physically constituted and think more or less like us.

From the gourd to the mask, reusability must be a message we should spread.

Sometimes not really easy to find an ethical product (so many people are lying to make money that's terrible !)

  • Always have a look at the country origin

  • Buy a fairtrade fabric when it is possible

  • Although we are all brothers, try to buy a local product to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by the transport

Thank you for the support you give to the Hebdo Ecolo association.

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👉 If you liked this article and reusable masks are not your thing, you can also help us by making a donation of 1€ or more on HelloAsso.


Written by Lucie

Translated and reviewed by Mathieu and Juliette

Hebdo Ecolo, the ecological progress community 🌱


Sources :

Alternatives Economiques | BBC | Génération Cobayes | Greenpeace | The Guardian | ONU | ONU Inhabitat | Le Monde | Futura Sciences | Securimed | | L'infodurable | Le Figaro |


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  Confectionné avec passion par l'association HEBDO ECOLO, progrès écologique et éthique pour toutes & tous