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The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


The Student News Site of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy


Just When We Thought A Pandemic Was Enough: Now, The Masks You Wear To Protect Yourself Jeopardize The Environment


Slider photo by Dennis Krolevich

In February of this year, a group of beach cleaners in Hong Kong found a total of 70 littered masks along only 100 meters of the shore, 30 more appearing a week later. It has already been almost eight months since the start of the great pandemic of 2020 and the World Health Organization projected in March that a total of 89 million masks per month were required worldwide for medical workers. It is now November and practically any average person owns and wears a mask as mandated by the nation, or, in America’s case, state law, and the demand for face masks will only increase into the next year. 

After all, the research that has repeatedly shown the horrific effect non-decomposable plastics have on the environment, it is simply a no-brainer to understand that the very protection we use for ourselves, our friends, and our family will greatly impact the world we will inhabit in the future. 

For however long the pandemic will continue, the best each individual can do themselves in regards to environmental health is to take a few simple steps to reducing mask waste. Firstly, if one has a reliance on single-use masks, the only compromise is to avoid unnecessary littering and disposing of masks. Recycling these masks and other safety equipment cause jams in specialist recycling equipment, ultimately rendering them non-reusable. 

Unfortunately, single-use masks are non-recyclable because they “cause jams in specialist recycling equipment.” Photo by Dennis Krolevich

The other preferred alternative would be for individuals to purchase one or multiple reusable masks that have two or more layers of a breathable fabric, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guideline’s recommend

There are several different locations and methods for purchasing reusable, high quality face masks. Charlie Hustle is a retail store located at the Country Club Plaza that also has an online story with a few options for face masks – although the gaiters they offer are more expensive and are not recommended by the CDC’s mask guidelines, the other cloth based masks for sale are completely usable and washable. 

Rightfully Sewn is a seamstress company based in Kansas City, Mo. that has recently introduced reusable masks into their retail in consideration of the environmental benefit of these masks. They are lined with 100% cotton, completely reusable and washable, and can be ordered in several different sizes. 

Lastly, Made In KC is a retail company with an online store and seven different locations in Kansas City, Overland Park and Prairie Village. Among their vast collection of apparel, accessories, and more, they have partnered with Sandlot Goods to manufacture face masks as well as carry masks produced by Charlie Hustle. 

Many brands and companies have started selling reusable masks, such as Charlie Hustle, Rightfully Sewn, and Made In KC. Photo from Wikipedia

According to co-founder of Made In KC, Keith Bradley, the company started “carrying [masks] in April and have sold tens of thousands. Additionally, we’ve provided even more at cost for local area nonprofits, hospitals, schools and other public service organizations.”

Part of Made In KC’s mission is to incorporate local artists in the business of manufactured apparel, and partnering with Sandlot Goods made establishing locality easy while also doing a service for a city during the pandemic. Bradley remarks that this influenced the company’s investment into reusable masks. 

Above all, whether a mask is environmentally friendly or not, “it’s first and foremost just important to make sure any community is equipped with face masks at this time,” Bradley says. “If they can be used safely over and over again then that, in our opinion, is a good thing.” 

While in the midst of a global threat, our first thoughts should definitely be our own health and safety, but when we take in consideration the environmental aspect of the tools of health and safety, we retain the environmental progress that we have made over the past decade instead of wasting it. While we may rely on cheap, easy use masks that potentially could be littering or disposed improperly, it still begs the question of whether or not we will regret it in the future after the pandemic hopefully concludes. Right now, it is solely up to individual action in order to make decisions that will negatively or positively impact the future of our environment. 

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