By Abdullah Al Fahad, Rotaract Club of Dhaka Orchid, Bangladesh
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with a new environmental challenge. Every month, more than 120 billion disposable masks and gloves are being thrown out, with some of them polluting our land and water.
Our Rotaract club, like many, is concerned about the environment. Emboldened by Rotary’s newest cause, protecting the environment, we decided to do something about this problem. We began a recycling effort which we called our Clean Earth project to collect masks that were littering our streets, parking lots, and other common areas and find a way to reuse them.
Medical experts have said that the virus can survive up to three days on an object. We place the masks that we pick up in a locked room for three days. Then we bleach them and wash them with detergent over a period of 24 hours. We dry them in sunlight, then tear them into smaller pieces and mix them with cement. We use this mixture to create planting containers filled with soil, which we plant trees inside.
We have also made bricks with the mixture and find it stronger than regular bricks. We are planning to use the bricks to build toilets in rural areas. We are working with other clubs to expand our effort, perhaps creating a recycling center where people could bring their used masks, and we could employ other people to help us turn them into bricks and other products.
As much as 13 millon tons of plastic makes it way into our oceans every year. Masks often contain plastics such as polypropylene with a lifespan of hundreds of years. Rotary members are creative and innovative, and we are sure that with some thought, other clubs could join us in finding ways to convert glove and mask waste into usable commodities. Let’s protect this planet of ours while we embrace Rotary’s newest cause.
Learn more about how Rotary is protecting the environment.