There's no doubt about it -- masks are saving lives. These small but powerful tools have been recommended by every credible source to effectively slow the spread of the coronavirus. While masks and handwashing are not a replacement for social distancing, they provide a known barrier between those who may be carrying the virus, whether they are symptomatic or not, and the people around them in instances where social distancing is impossible -- in grocery stores, in hospitals, and on city streets, just to name a few. But with the common use of these new tools comes a new problem -- our single-use masks and gloves are clogging our oceans and killing our wildlife.
Sign the petition today if you think it should be the job of all medical insurance providers in the U.S. to provide REUSABLE masks to those under their coverage. Keeping people healthy is their job, and they should be doing it in the most sustainable way possible!
Already, conservationists and marine biologists across the globe are finding masses of gloves and masks in our earth's bodies of water. One video shows an octopus trapped beneath a single-use medical mask, unable to free itself. Other footage shows beaches clogged with masks, and scuba divers surrounded by so many gloves that it looks like confetti. Experts estimate that every month, we are using and throwing away close to "129 billion face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves." Many of these are either disposed of improperly or are being carried by the wind off of trucks and out of landfills. There is no way to tell how many of these some 200 billion plastic and paper products are ending up in our oceans, floating alongside a whale that they could end up killing.
Many people cannot use reusable cloth masks. Medical personnel in hospitals need to don new masks and gloves after every time they remove them in order to keep themselves and those they are caring for safe. Many folks with certain disabilities or medical conditions need access to single-use masks in order to stay healthy. Single use masks and gloves should be reserved for these folks. If medical insurance providers made access to reusable masks easier for those who can use them, it would slash the number of paper and plastic protective products we are throwing away -- only for them to end up in the ocean, choking a turtle or blocking the digestive tract of a dolphin.
We have seen the havoc that waste pollution wreaks on our environment. And now, it is clear that this pandemic will cause a surge in that pollution. While we must continue to use masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus, there is so much more that our institutions can be doing to create sustainable ways of staying safe. And that begins with insurance providers informing about and providing reusable masks to all who can utilize them, as well as encouraging hand washing and sanitizing over gloves whenever possible. We know these methods work in keeping us healthy, and we also know that the future of our oceans and wildlife depend on them.
Please sign the petition today, and demand that all insurance providers make it a part of their formal COVID-19 response to provide reusable masks to those under their coverage, and to provide useful information on the benefits of reusable masks and hand washing.