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Why are travellers throwing away unused masks and sanitizers?

Masks and Sanitizers in a dustbin

I have taken four flights in the last two months and I have had my share of stressful and anxious moments. From wearing the face shield, mask and the PPE kit for the first time to having mastered the art of keeping them on without fiddling much, I have been through it all. I still remember how scared I was when I went for my first flight in the month of November, after a hiatus of eight months. I must have rubbed my hands with sanitizers at least 50 times. But with each trip, I learned that it was not necessary to go crazy and the best practices were to wear the mask properly, avoid touching here and there, use the sanitizer when necessary and not be a paranoid. At the same time, we have to be careful always and not let our guards down. The vaccine is here and the callousness and ignorance among travellers has already started to show. What I noticed recently with respect to masks and sanitizers made me both, sad and angry.

If you have your own masks and sanitizers, do you trash the ones given by the airlines?

As a traveller, there is no one more happier than me when I see things moving closer to normalcy and the fear from Covid dying down with each passing day. The caseloads have reduced. The vaccination exercise has begun. Travel is picking up. But does that mean we start becoming insensitive to other issues already existent in our society? I want the old days back too but not this way. Where has the concern gone? What happened to the fear? Have people already forgotten the panic rush for masks and sanitizers?

Dumping unused masks and fresh sanitizer sachets shows sheer insensitivity towards the environment.

Why are travellers throwing away unused masks and sanitizers?
Fresh masks and unused sanitizer sachets in the trash at Delhi Airport!

What I saw today really pissed me off. At the boarding gate, when flyers were handed over masks and PPE kit, I saw some travellers trashing fresh masks and sanitizers even without using them. I could see they were equipped with their own masks and sanitizers but just because they had with them doesn’t mean that they had to dump these unused. In my view, they could easily put them in their laptop bags or purses for later use. And if they did not mean to use them, they could give the pack to someone after a month or so, when there were no chances of passing any kind of virus. But I ask them why throw away? There was a time when we did not have enough masks, the online portals took weeks to deliver and sanitizers were not even available at chemist shops. Have we forgotten it all already?

Can we play our part to lessen the pandemic-related waste?

We are all aware that the pandemic had led to tonnes of plastic and non-disposable waste. The accumulation of this plastic waste is already quite challenging but can we not play a small role in disposing it right and disposing it only when required. Its good that people are using cloth masks. It can be washed and reused but that does not give us the right to dump a fresh set of mask and a bunch of unused sanitizer sachets? Why add to the waste when you can keep it for later use. Let us not forget that there are so many who don’t have it.

If any of you is mindlessly throwing away masks and sanitizers, I request you to please stop doing it and educate others as well.

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