Face masks have become commonplace in our lives due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as an important measure to keep ourselves and communities safe by slowing the spread of airborne transmissions. While we have received lots of public health information on their use, there has been little guidance regarding safe disposal or recycling. Disposable masks are often seen as more hygienic and convenient; however, their long-term impacts are anything but!
Community Face Mask Challenges 2.0
This year’s UOW Makerspace design challenge encourages students to investigate this environmental issue and work together to design a range of accessible solutions. There are a range of investigations as well as design tasks to explore the issues associated with single-use masks, recycling processes and alternative choices for both primary and secondary students. The challenges outlined below, involve researching, communicating, and making to explore their understanding in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Challenge 1: Waste Investigation
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of face masks to protect ourselves against airborne viruses has become a necessity. While there are reusable face mask options, many people still rely on disposable, single-use masks due to convenience, hygiene and availability. This has led to a build-up of mask-related waste which we did not necessarily have prior to the pandemic.
To begin this challenge, conduct an investigation into the waste produced from disposable masks and other COVID-19 related medical products. How can masks be disposed of hygienically? What happens to masks when they are thrown out? What can be done with masks after they are used? Can disposable masks be recycled?
Challenge 2: Recycle and Repurpose
There is an abundance of mask-waste as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the nature of the virus, much of this waste is discarded with issues surrounding the safe, hygienic recycling and repurposing of materials. However, there are ways that this waste can be made safe and/or recycled through various processes. This opens up possibilities for reusing the materials from disposable masks in innovative ways.
This challenge requires you to consider a recycling process for disposable masks, and how the materials can be repurposed in new products. It is important to keep in mind hygiene practices here, so consider how the material could be treated to make it safe for its new purpose. You might like to investigate various methods used to recycle other types of medical waste and consider how this could be applied to your plan.
Challenge 3: Reusable Masks from Household Materials
There is an increasing need to find sustainable, reusable options for personal protective equipment such as face masks, with disposable options linked with pollution and recycling issues. As so many of us are spending more time in our homes, people are finding innovative ways to repurpose materials for new uses, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Can you make a safe, effective face mask from materials around your home? What sort of materials are needed to make a face mask? What materials are accessible?
This challenge requires you to design and create a face mask from materials you can find in your house. This mask should be reusable, meaning it can be cleaned or disinfected between uses so it can protect the wearer effectively every time.
Challenge 4: Digital Awareness Campaign
Many people may not be aware of how much waste is created from disposable masks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This creates a need to spread awareness about more sustainable options for reusable masks and how people could create one themselves.
What issues surround the use and recycling of disposable masks? Why is there a need for reusable masks? How can people make their own masks, and make a difference themselves?
This challenge requires you to develop a series of messages that could be used as a digital campaign to spread awareness about single-use masks and waste. You should include information about the issues surrounding disposable masks, alternate sustainable options and ways people can make their own reusable mask.
Winners will be picked for each stage within each challenge. Winners will have their challenge work posted across the UOW Makerspace social media outlets and receive a free excursion (zoom or in person) to the UOW Makerspace.
Register your class or school to be involved.