Comparative Analysis of Face Mask Usage and its Potential Environmental Impact in Asian Cities during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in the use of single-use face masks, resulting in a surge in facemask waste. The improper management of this increased facemask waste has resulted in several environmental impacts, including: increased risk of infection and sanitary issues; increased burden on waste management systems; and microplastic pollution, etc. Despite several studies on mask use during COVID-19, there remains a lack of research focusing on actual mask usage rates, trend in new normal,  sociodemographic factors, and sustainable strategies related to mask utilization, especially in the Asian context. Addressing this gap, this study aims to investigate sustainable mask usage in Asian countries. Firstly, we clarified the actual mask usage during pre-, during and post-COVID periods based on a comprehensive survey across 5 representative Asian cities. Secondly, we explored the impact of sociodemographic factors on mask use. Thirdly, we provided an environmental impact analysis (including waste generation, carbon footprint, water footprint, and microplastics) based on the existing intensity indicators, population, waste collecting rate, and mask use rate from this survey. Lastly, we proposed sustainable measures for mask utilization.