As the pandemic continues, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has renewed its call to discard used face masks properly to prevent risks of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) transmission.

“Protection against COVID-19 goes beyond following the minimum health protocols and the use of face masks and face shields. Our responsibility extends to the disposal of these healthcare items which are potentially contaminated,” said DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.

The DENR chief also underscored the importance of responsibly discarding COVID-19 litter especially disposable face masks because these have now affected terrestrial and aquatic animals.

“We have seen that while face masks protect us, these have become the newest threat to animal life because of entanglement, and have added up to marine litter,” Cimatu said.

Meanwhile, DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units (LGUs) Concerns Benny D. Antiporda, himself a COVID-19 survivor, emphasized the participation of households in the proper segregation of used face masks from other solid wastes.

"We never thought that these healthcare wastes will end up in our doorsteps. Before, these items are just found in operating rooms of hospitals. So, let’s put our used face masks in a separate container and properly label it as household healthcare waste, even specifically indicating it as face mask," he said during his guesting in the radio program "Ang Tinig Klima" last week.

"Let’s do this so we won’t jeopardize the lives of garbage collectors and whoever takes out trashes at home. If we will not practice this, and masks contaminate other solid wastes, these people will have the risk of getting infected by the virus and consequently infecting our own households in the end," he added.

Antiporda pointed out that LGUs have already been reminded to separate medical wastes upon collection for proper treatment in sanitary landfills.

During the program, Antiporda also urged the public against using unnecessary single-use plastics.

“Coffee stirrers can be replaced with biodegradable alternatives such as popsicle sticks. On the other hand, softdrinks are already in plastic bottles, so why use plastic straws? You’re only adding insult to injury," Antiporda added.

Plastic coffee stirrers and plastic softdrink straws were declared as non-environmentally acceptable products by the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) in February 2021.

"I call on the businessmen producing these two plastic items to divert to other products much more necessary to the public instead," appealed Antiporda who is also the Alternate Chair of the NSWMC.

"There are some resistance from other government agencies but we will abide by the call of the President to ban unnecessary single-use plastics," he said. ###