Face masks and shields and other personal protective equipment have become essential for healthcare workers seeking to prevent infection since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year. Disposable N95 masks have been in especially high demand to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
All of those masks carry both financial and environmental costs, according to MIT News. The COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to generate up to 7,200 tons of medical waste every day, much of which is disposable masks, and even as the pandemic slows down in some parts of the world, healthcare workers are expected to continue wearing masks most of the time.
That toll could be dramatically cut by adopting reusable masks, according to a new study from MIT that has calculated the financial and environmental cost of several different mask usage scenarios. Decontaminating regular N95 masks so that healthcare workers can wear them for more than one day drops costs and environmental waste by at least 75 percent, compared to using a new mask for every encounter with a patient.