Fighting Litter Around the UK: Don’t Be a Litter Bug: Make Your Own Face Mask

Fighting Litter Around the UK: Don’t Be a Litter Bug: Make Your Own Face Mask

Fighting Litter Around the UK:

Don’t Be a Litter Bug: Make Your Own Face Mask

Now that wearing a mask in shops and on public transport has become mandatory in the UK, we’ve rushed to buy them in droves. Sadly, what we’re wearing for protection doesn’t seem to be doing the planet much good, as PPE litter has increased drastically.

It’s estimated that around 129 billion face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves are used across the globe EVERY MONTH and much of this is being discarded and ending up on our streets, in our parks, and in the ocean.

Environmental groups and divers have reported seeing more and more discarded PPE floating in waters, harming wildlife, and washing up on our beaches.

RSPCA officers in Chelmsford were recently called to help a gull whose legs had become tangled up in a discarded face mask and the charity fears that there will be far more cases like this if people don’t dispose of their masks responsibly.


wearing face mask in shops


Can you recycle disposable masks and gloves?

You can’t recycle disposable masks and gloves as they are meant for single-use only. They must be double-bagged and set aside for 72 hours before being put in your household waste bin. There have been stories of bin crews being put at risk by PPE that’s been put into recycling bins, so avoid litter and keep others safe by disposing of it properly.

A washable and reusable mask is the most eco-friendly option

Of course, the best way to avoid litter is to not produce waste in the first place, so the most eco-friendly option is to invest in a few washable and reusable face masks, or if you’re feeling creative, try making your own.

How to make your own reusable face mask

You can make your own face masks out of anything from old t-shirts to hankies, it just needs to be good quality material, a good fit around your face, and comfortable enough to allow you to breathe easily. Here’s how you can make your own reusable face mask.

Basic face mask (no sewing required)

What you need:

A bandana, t shirt, or cloth (approx. 20x20 inches),  2 hair ties/elastic bands

What to do:

Lay the material out flat

Fold it in half

Fold the top down and fold the bottom up to meet it

Thread it through the two hair ties/elastic bands-bands should be about 6 inches apart

Fold the ends into the middle and tuck them in the folds


No sew T-shirt mask

What you need:

Old t-shirt, Scissors, Kitchen towel, Safety pins

What to do:

Draw the mask pattern across the arms and body of the t-shirt.

Cut along the pattern so you have two layers of material (front and back of t-shirt).

Pin one side securely with safety pins.

Insert material like kitchen towel or coffee filter.

Pin the other side securely.

Wrap the mask securely around the face so it covers your nose and mouth.


woman doing her own face mask

Sewn face mask

What you need:

Two 10”x6” rectangles of cotton fabric (an old T-shirt is perfect)

Two 6” pieces of elastic (or rubber bands, string, cloth strips, or hair ties)

Needle and thread (or bobby pin)


Sewing machine

What to do:

Put one piece of fabric on top of the other.

Fold over the long sides ¼ inch and hem.

Fold the double layer of fabric over ½ inch along the short sides and stitch down.

Run a 6-inch length of 1/8-inch wide elastic through the wider hem on each side of the mask. These will be the loops that will fit around your ears. Use a large needle or bobby pin to thread the elastic through. Tie the ends tight. If you are using string, make the ties a little longer so you can tie the mask behind your head.

Pull on the elastic so that the knots are tucked inside the hem. Gather the sides of the mask on the elastic and adjust it so it fits your face. Stitch the elastic in place to stop it from slipping.

Wearing your face mask

  • Wash your hands before you put your mask on and after you take it off, and avoid touching the front of the mask.
  • Don’t wear it if it’s damp or soiled at all.
  • Don’t remove it to talk.
  • When you remove your face mask, store it in a plastic bag until it’s ready to be washed.

Washing your face mask

  • Wash your mask after every use.
  • They can be washed along with your laundry, ideally on the hottest setting.
  • You can also handwash them in hot soapy water, making sure you scrub them for at least 20 seconds.