tv Shift Deutsche Welle January 5, 2021 3:45pm-4:01pm CET
stick and often enough they end up polluting rivers and oceans. we've seen all around the world well with washing up with plastic bags and stomachs these masks there are no other edition better nor worse than the rest of the trash. we can't stop using masks but we should not have to choose between saving lives or the environment so what should be done. hello welcome to the 19th special. and this here is a reusable mosque we all have them here in the you to keep each other safe and i certainly keep this one unlike those single use ones which most of us where only once or twice and then throw away but what happens then time to take a closer look at an item that's become essential for our everyday life. disposable masks are everywhere on the ground in hong kong in the rivers in ukraine on the
beaches of italy and california and on the streets in germany a growing problem. and then to my isp you always think it's a paper because you look at the tissue on the surface. but inside it's at least 50 percent plastic and the rest is cellulose or paper but half of it won't biodegrade and then there's the elastic air loops which are completely plastic you might think a clip over the nose is metal but it's also plastic so overall 70 percent of the weight of this mask is plastic and therefore not biodegradable stuff. was there designed to be used by medical professionals but for many they've become a standard household item a lot of masks end up in the scene because they haven't been properly disposed of used basques or considered unsuitable for recycling as they contain germs not just
coronaviruses. they basically made thermal treatment to get burned up in germany that means they're supposed to be disposed of as general waste which means they'll be incinerated that's a process which can be used to generate energy producing electricity and heat. but not all countries treat waste this way in many places masks end up in dumps where they get buried or blown into waterways scientists are working on alternatives such as by wood degradable cellulose from bamboo the masks need to be robust and developing them will take time. shafts naturally i know the masks create new waste which we cannot recycle these materials are definitely not compatible with the ideal of a circular economy and. we are burdening our planet with a lingering legacy one that is likely to outlast the pandemic by centuries.
for more i'm joined by mark commute dominic from the university college london where he's professor of materials and society and project lead the plastics waste innovation hub good to have you with us let's start 1st of all writing things into perspective how big a global problem ah single you masks single use masks in comparison to to plastic bottles and backs of force. so it's a very significant problem simply small so it's getting bigger so in the u.k. we did a calculation that over a year it creates 124000 tons of single these plastic waste recyclable that's just in the u.k. with 65000000 people now if you think that well boy you know you've got a 1000000000 people and more wearing single use mosques than you realize it's an enormous amount of the waste and it's growing every day of course i mean as long as the pandemic is with us we'll probably have to wear masks but why do single use
mosques need to have components that are made of plastic. is there any all the material available. well yeah i mean so it depends what use are used in a mass flow for the general public the mosques or to protect other people so in case that you have the virus and you don't know you have the terrorists but you're out and about meeting people there is to protect others and so you don't need to use plastic mask which are designed for surgery and hostile environments you can use and we the data shows very clearly that cloth masks which are made of cotton or wool are as effective for doing this. so so you can use or usual mask they don't need to be plastic right but it's i mean as you said i mean surgical masks for medical staff they should use the single use masks that contain plastic that in itself is a huge problem as well. it is and what we've done is i mean i'm not saying plastic
isn't about it so of course what we need to do is recycled plastic and so we should be designing things for recycling and what we've slept walked into in the medical establishment in hospitals is this idea it's been sold to us as a very hygienic way of making sure people are safe in hospital so everything is single use its old sinner right to donate to its and the hospitals it developed countries are all set up to do this but what this does to chris cycle of white cycle of waste and c a 2 emissions which we have to wean ourselves off we can't continue like this even in hospital environment right i mean i don't know if you can answer that question it just popped into my head because i know that the european union wants to ban as single use plastic this summer that would also include face masks are they still available then do we know. i think those those those directives they they only include the use for by the public so things being sold to the public
they usually have exceptions and i suspect the hospital in virus will be exceptions because the whole of the hostile environment including injections and all the packaging and bolt is all single use so i suspect what they're talking about there is is banning single use plastics sold to the public in terms of food packaging. what we know that the pandemic helps temporarily at least to lowest c o 2 emissions do you think the pandemic will also all help create more awareness when it comes to plastic pollution. i think what people see with the with the disposable mask if you see them on the ground all the time and why is that partly it's selfish people taking them off their contaminated sort of them down the ground so it's partly that but it's because they're very lightweight then get blown around in the wind they end up in the seed and up in the rivers they end up in the in the countryside so yeah it's a very visible sign of our attitudes towards each other towards the environment and
towards and this is that we become to get used to this terrible addiction to single use plastic and the mavs really are and about it and i'm at the margin really not a good example that yeah that's no doubt absolutely the but i mean if i'm they sort of incentive so you know couldn't couldn't policymakers say all right for every mask that you dispose properly we have containers put up outside supermarkets or wherever people are let that be a feasible solution where we looked into that very expensive solution so you could say well ok if you want to use a single use plastic mouse and we're going to put these containers everywhere and we're going to we're going to monitor that and give you some incentive but that's got to be a big infrastructure you could put into place when in fact an easier solution which is the one that most governments are trying to persuade the populations to follow is a really useful months one where you yourself as
a citizen have the responsibility for cleaning and for using and for and for carrying around with you and and and that that in itself i think would change people's attitudes that is the idea of disposability whether there is infrastructure or not is actually not very good for the environment rights market dominic professor and london said in an expert material society plastic waste innovation thank you so much for your time. i was talking to. time now for more of your questions over to a science correspondent sterrett williams. is a new variant of the virus more dangerous than the old one. viruses mutate constantly producing a never ending stream of new variants but most of the time those mutations don't
change the virus much or or they even have a negative effect on its ability to propagate still every once in a while a mutation will provide advantages like making the virus for example better invading your cells or better at replicating and them and that appears to have happened with a new variant 1st identified in the united kingdom back in september which has in just a few short months become the form detected in most new patients there that rapid expansion the experts say is them to the fact that one or more of the mutations it's accumulated make the variant more contagious it seems to spread more easily exactly how much more easily is still kind of up in the air but but does that make it more dangerous the ensor is both yes and no the know is if you
look at things from an individual level although it looks to be a lot more contagious the fast spreading variant doesn't appear to be more virulent so it doesn't seem to make the people who catch it in the sicker than the old variant does but but seen from a population perspective the new variant is more dangerous because the fact that it's more transmissible means that of course more people will catch it and more people catching it translates into more people ending up in hospital wards and dice . see you units looking forward the new variant could prove more dangerous for another reason as well which is that contagiousness is directly linked to herd immunity the more contagious a pathogen is the more people have to be vaccinated to stop its spread the good news is that experts are still cautious lee optimistic that approved vaccines
should prove just as effective against the new variant as they are against the old one. there you go there and he'll be back again tomorrow so if you have a question just send an e-mail to feed bag dot english to do w. dot com and type experts in the subject line or you leave a comment on our you tube channel that's it for today thanks for watching stay safe .
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subscribe to the documentary on youtube. this is d.w. news live from berlin germany is locked down is set to be extended until at least the end of this month's the chancellor and regional leaders are also discussing further measures i was summoned that's now on the way one contentious issue of restricting non-essential travel in the coronavirus hot spots also coming up england slows down again people are not.