01.12.2020 - Sustainability

Masks do not belong in the waste paper


Better safe than sorry: Where do used mouth-nose masks go?


Mouth-nose masks. They are an important means of containing the pandemic. You can find them everywhere – even in places where they don’t belong. But where to put them once they have to be discarded?

As the name says: mouth-nose masks are actually intended to cover the mouth and nose – this is the only way they help to prevent infection. This applies to self-made fabric masks as well as masks from the drugstore or pharmacy.

Fabric masks can be used over and over again if they are washed properly (see tips below). So-called surgical or medical masks, but also more sturdy filter/FFP masks, however, are intended to be disposable. After wearing them, at the latest at the end of the day, they should be disposed of – and correctly: not as waste paper, but as residual waste.
There are two good reasons for this: First of all, the masks could be contaminated by viruses or germs. This makes them a health risk for people working in the waste paper processing industry, for example. Secondly, many of these masks contain synthetic fibres. If they end up in waste paper, they make recycling much more difficult and expensive. 

Our tips for masking

  • Always treat a mask as if it is contaminated with viruses.
  • Disposable masks go in the residual waste.
  • Fabric masks can be washed very hot in the machine or by hand with a heavy-duty detergent: at least at 60 degrees, then rinse well and leave to dry completely. Hot and extensive ironing also destroys viruses, but the mask will not be clean.
  • Damp masks transport viruses, are unhygienic and should be changed immediately. A British researcher compared a damp mask to a used handkerchief in front of the nose.*
  • Unsuitable means for removing viruses from a mask include: microwaving, freezing, disinfectants and UV lamps. The oven is also an expensive, tedious solution: A mask is probably only virus-free after 90 minutes at 90 degrees.**
  • A mask is no replacement for the minimum distance (1.5 metres), but is an additional measure, especially if keeping a distance is difficult.


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