01.12.2020 - Sustainability

Masks do not belong in the waste paper


Better safe than sorry: Where to put used mouth and nose masks?


Mouth and nose masks. They are an important way to help curb the pandemic. They can also be found everywhere – even where they don't belong. But where should we put them if they have to be disposed of?

Just as the name says: mouth and nose masks are designed to cover the mouth and nose – this is the only way they help prevent infection. This applies to self-sewn fabric masks as well as masks from pharmacies.
Fabric masks can be used repeatedly if they're washed properly (see the tips below). The so-called surgical or medical masks, and also the more robust filter/FFP masks, are however intended as disposable, single-use only masks.

They should be disposed of after wearing them, but at the end of the day at the latest – and disposed of correctly: not in the waste paper but in residual waste.
There are two good reasons for this: on the one hand the masks could be contaminated by viruses or germs. This makes them a health risk for example for people who work in waste paper processing. And on the other hand, many of these masks contain synthetic fibres. If they end up in the waste paper they make recycling much more complex and costly. 

Our tips for handling masks

  • Always treat a mask as if it's contaminated with viruses.
  • Disposable masks should be put in the residual waste.
  • Fabric masks can be washed in the washing machine or by hand with a heavy-duty detergent at very hot temperatures (at least at 60 degrees) – then rinse them well and leave to dry completely. Even hot and very extended ironing destroys viruses, but the mask can't be cleaned in this way.
  • A damp mask transports viruses, is unhygienic and should be changed immediately. A British researcher compared a damp mask with holding a used handkerchief in front of the nose.*
  • Not suitable for freeing a mask from viruses are the following: microwave, freezing, disinfectants and UV lamps. The oven is also an expensive and tedious solution: a mask probably only becomes free of viruses again after 90 minutes at 90 degrees.**
  • A mask does not replace the minimum distance (1.5 metres) to other people but is an additional measure, especially in situations where keeping your distance is difficult.


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