The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Photo essay: As masks are cast aside, they live on as litter

1 min read

Mask on the Alvey Parking deck covered in dust and dirt. Sydney Hall / The Blue & Gray Press

by SYDNEY HALL

Staff Writer

Over the past year and a half, face masks have become a regular part of people’s lives. Although UMW requires students to wear masks in all indoor facilities located on campus, while walking around I have found an insane amount of discarded masks, either accidentally dropped or not making it into the trash can. 

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. already produced more trash than any other country in the world before COVID-19, but discarded masks have emerged as an additional waste. Even with masks still required in many places, I have seen an increase in masks being discarded everywhere, including our own college campus. 

While masks serve their purpose in preventing the spread of COVID, they create plenty of waste. They can negatively impact the environment if not disposed of properly. For instance, disposable masks are made of woven plastic. Therefore, they are considered hazardous to our environment because they are not recyclable and will not decompose.

These photos were taken throughout the course of one day. As I walked from my car in the Alvey parking garage, I noticed three or four different masks just laying on the cement. I picked up the masks, discarded them and made my way to the bell tower, walking the entirety of campus. I noticed that most of the masks found on the ground were places that students travel the most like campus walk, parking decks and athletic areas.

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