Plastic Free Letchworth out in force as disposable face masks become ‘new variety of plastic litter’

PUBLISHED: 16:01 21 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:01 21 September 2020

Disposable facemasks have become a new type of single use plastic litter. Picture: Plastic Free Letchworth

Disposable facemasks have become a new type of single use plastic litter. Picture: Plastic Free Letchworth

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How have our newly found good habits around single-use plastics fared through lockdown? Campaign group Plastic Free Letchworth were out and about last week to find out.

Locally made facemasks for sale in Letchworth's Bamboo Turtle: Picture: Plastic Free LetchworthLocally made facemasks for sale in Letchworth's Bamboo Turtle: Picture: Plastic Free Letchworth

Plastic Free Letchworth is an arm of the Transition Town Letchworth group which has been working to reduce the use of plastic in the town.

Co-ordinator Diane Ketcher observed the amount of single-use face masks littered in the town.

She said: “Face masks are a new variety of plastic litter, so we wanted to find out how easy and cost effective it is for people to buy reusable masks.

“We found 21 stores selling facemasks in Letchworth’s central shopping area. Of these, 13 sold both reusable and disposable face masks, four only reusable face masks while four shops only sold disposable face masks.

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“The typical cost of a disposable face mask was 50p, though this could be reduced by buying in bulk, while prices for re-usable masks ranged from 80p to £10 per mask.

“There were lots of different designs of reusable mask to choose from, including a mask to support your football team. Locally made re-usable masks were available in Bamboo Turtle and Love Letchworth.

“Given we will be needing face masks for the foreseeable future, and the availability of so many reasonably priced reusable options, we hope local people will support the environment and either make or purchase a reusable mask.”

The team also observed plenty of shops selling mini-hand sanitisers, but also observed some big bottles which could be purchased to refill pocket-size containers, which will reduce – though not eliminate, – plastic waste.

Last year, Plastic Free Letchworth became the first town in Hertfordshire to earn ‘plastic free’ status by Surfers Against Sewage.

Taking re-usable cups into cafés for takeaway drinks has been a big theme of Plastic Free campaigns and lots of thought has been given to how this habit can be preserved. The Plastic Free Letchworth Team audit visited 11 cafes, and found just four who were willing to fill customers own cups, with the majority of the larger chains reverting back to single-use cups.

Plastic Free Communities have been asked to come out of lockdown with a renewed energy to help reduce our reliance on plastics and the Letchworth team are gearing up for this challenge.


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