Face Masks is Innocent
3.4 billion ‘Daily Dropped’ face masks found not guilty of creating worldwide plastic pollution epidemic.
The prosecution of face masks for creating a worldwide pollution problem collapsed today when Lord Chief Justice C. Sense ruled that the estimated 3.4 billion face masks discarded daily around the world were not responsible for the mess and problems subsequently created. In his judgement, this pollution was solely due to the actions of the owners who had thrown them away at the end of their useful life.
Various organisations had supported this prosecution including Green Peace, Friends of the Earth, A Plastic Planet and the Ellen MacArthur Trust. It was claimed that the masks were simply a further example of the blight of plastic pollution as these masks were predominantly polypropylene fibre, and they should either be banned in total or replaced with a cotton fibre or a compostable plastic alternative.
The prosecution produced as evidence to the court a recent report from National Geographic, that included estimates that there were currently some 129 billion masks being used worldwide each month and of these, 3.4 billion were being discarded indiscriminately. These masks had been found on beaches in South America, Jakarta Bay in Indonesia and on inhabited islands in Hong Kong. They were even responsible for jamming the municipal sewerage system in Vancouver, Canada.
The prosecution further maintained that as these masks were not recyclable or biodegradable, they had become a plague on our planet that would be around for thousands of years. As a consequence, they demanded urgent legislation that required plastic masks to be replaced by biodegradable and / or compostable alternatives.
Judge C. Sense ‘in his ruling’ rejected the prosecution’s arguments finding for the defence and highlighted the fact that plastic surgical and industrial masks had been used for over 50 years in both medical and surgical applications. No evidence had been presented to the court that any of these masks had been found littering the streets and rivers of the planet. Indeed, most medical and industrial organisations had arranged for the proper collection and disposal of these masks usually for incineration in combined heat and power plants producing energy from waste. Therefore, if the current anti-covid masks were similarly treated by their owners the plastic pollution problem alluded to by the prosecution simply wouldn’t exist. Logically the pollution problem was created by the user and not the mask.
The judge also expressed the view that it was a travesty that the prosecution had not bothered to investigate the negative impact on the environment of their proposals to replace plastic with biodegradable and / or compostable materials.
In his summing up, he noted that it takes 22 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of polypropylene fibre against 1,320 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cotton fibre. In addition, cotton growing and manufacture includes the use of some of the world’s most hazardous pesticides.
With regard to compostable material, the judge reiterated his view that the prosecution had been negligent in failing to investigate the adverse environmental consequences of replacing plastic masks with compostable material.
A recent report from Oceans Asia (expressing their concerns about plastic masks entering the oceans) estimated that 1 billion plastic masks weigh some 4,000 metric tonnes. Based on the current estimates of 129 billion masks in use per month it would require circa 500,000 tonnes of compostable material per month to replace plastic. The judge concluded the agricultural land, water usage and chemical fertilisers required to grow this volume of material was prohibitive and environmentally damaging.
In addition, the judge felt that no evidence has been produced to suggest that any of these compostable masks, if produced, would ever be composted! He therefore concluded that compostable materials were unacceptable both environmentally and economically.
In summing up, the judge considered that those proposing replacing plastic masks with either biodegradable or compostable material had ‘lost touch with reality’. Similarly, as plastic masks had been in common use for over 50 years without any adverse environmental consequences, it was totally illogical to accuse the masks of being responsible for the current pollution.
This responsibility must rest solely with the mask user who should be required to dispose of them safely and sensibly.
The prosecution expressed their dissatisfaction with the judgement and gave ‘notice of appeal’. A spokesman for all the organisations involved stated, “it is common knowledge that plastic pollution in our rivers, streets and oceans is solely due to plastics and the plastic packaging manufacturers and the judge had ignored all the evidence to the contrary”.
As ever, any thoughts you may have on any of the items raised would be welcome.
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