Are Disposable Masks Biodegradable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: August 14, 2021
  • Time to read: 5 min.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all had to wear masks. 

This unfortunately has had a negative impact on our environment as so many disposable masks are not being properly disposed of. 

These masks pose a massive environmental threat as they are ending up all over the ground, in lakes, and in the ocean. 

It is extremely important to dispose of these face masks properly.

Disposable face masks are not biodegradable. 

This means that when they end up in the environment, they will not break down over time. 

They can pose a threat to animals and even to other people if the mask has been used by someone with the virus. 

It is extremely important to dispose of masks properly, but how can you do so?

Since most face masks are designed to be used one time, there are so many that are not being thrown away properly. 

However, this could be due to the fact that people aren’t aware of how they should be disposing of the item. 

Luckily, there is an easy way to dispose of face masks that is safe and better for the environment.

Are Disposable Face Masks Biodegradable?

Disposable masks are made of polypropylene. 

This material is basically a plastic and does not break down over time. 

This means that when masks aren’t disposed of properly and end up in the environment, they will stay there forever.

Are Face Masks Recyclable?

Disposable masks are not recyclable. 

The main reason behind this is they can contaminate the other recyclable products as well as the entire recycling facility. 

This can be extremely damaging, especially if the contamination isn’t caught immediately. 

It is extremely advised against recycling face masks, as they are more dangers than benefits.

How to Properly Dispose of Face Masks 

Disposable masks, unfortunately, do not have the ability to be recycled. 

Since you can’t recycle them, what are you supposed to do? Face masks that are worn by you in public are considered a household waste. 

This means that they do not require the same disposal as medical face masks. 

The first thing to keep in mind when disposing of a face mask is when the right time is to do it. 

Any disposable mask that has been crumpled or become damp in some way should be thrown away immediately.

Holding the mask by the ear loops, take the mask off your face. 

If it is already off your face, you will still want to hold it by just the ear loops. 

Handle the mask slowly and carefully to prevent any potential particles from shaking loose from the mask.

You are then going to want to cut through the ear loops with a pair of scissors. 

This greatly reduces the risk of an animal getting tangled in it if the mask makes its way into the environment somehow.

Instead of throwing your mask directly in the trash at this point, you are going to want to put it in a sealed plastic bag. 

The best option is going to be a Ziploc back because it seals tightly. 

You can then place the plastic bag in the trash can like normal.

If you think the mask might have been contaminated, you might want to call a hazardous waste service to haul the masks away for you. 

They will usually be skilled in handling medical waste, so they will know how to take care of your used masks.

When you are finished disposing of your mask, you will want to thoroughly wash your hands. 

This will hopefully protect you from any contamination that you might have come in contact with on the mask.

Environmental Impact of Disposable Masks

Face masks that aren’t disposed of properly pose a huge environmental risk to both humans and animals. 

The virus has the ability to live on one of these disposable masks for as long as seven days. 

If someone cleaning up masks comes in contact with one that has been infected by the virus within those seven days, they will ultimately contract the virus.

In addition to the risk to humans, plants and animals can be impacted. 

This type of waste can quickly break up ecosystems and smother environments. 

Animals can have issues telling the difference between a mask and prey, which can cause them to choke on the mask. 

There is also a risk of animals getting tangled in the elastic ear loops of the mask which can be fatal to them.

Alternative to Disposable Face Masks

The best thing to do in order to decrease the environmental impact of disposable face masks is to not use them. 

The number one thing you can do is use a reusable mask instead. 

You can wash these masks in your washing machine, which will get rid of any potential contamination. 

It is highly recommended that you carry a spare reusable mask with you just in case something happens to your first one. 

Not only are reusable masks better for the environment, but they are also better for your wallet. 

While disposable masks might seem like a cheaper option, you have to constantly buy new ones. 

Reusable masks can be used multiple times, so you will spend less money in the long run.


Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had to wear masks everywhere we go. 

Unfortunately, this has led to tons of disposable masks being thrown around without a care. 

They have ended up in the ocean, in the woods, in lakes, and several other places. 

This is dangerous to our environment and to ourselves.

The virus has the potential to live on a mask for up to 7 days. 

If someone is cleaning up litter and comes in contact with a contaminated mask, they will also contract the virus. 

The disposal of single use masks needs to be done properly to prevent this from happening.

The best way to dispose of a disposable mask is in a sealed plastic bag in your trash can. 

The masks are not recyclable or biodegradable, so it matters how you get rid of them. 

To prevent mask waste all together, you can switch to a reusable mask.

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