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      The impact and effectiveness of the general public wearing masks to reduce the spread of pandemics in the UK: a multidisciplinary comparison of single-use masks versus reusable face masks.

      This is not the latest version for this article. If you want to read the latest version, click here.

            Revision notes

            Reply to Reviewers Comments

            Beatrice Smyth

            The paper is much improved on the previous version.  The flow of the paper is much better and the content more cohesive.  I just have a few minor suggestions:

            1. In the abstract, it is noted that 124,000 tonnes of waste would be created and 66,000 tonnes would be unrecyclable contaminated plastic waste.  Is the remainder recyclable uncontaminated waste?  Please can you explain what this portion is composed of.

            We expanded the sentence to clarify the composition of plastic waste, as follows:

            "If every person in the UK uses one single-use mask each day for a year, it will create a total waste of 124,000 tonnes, 66,000 tonnes of which would be unrecyclable contaminated plastic waste (the masks), the rest being recyclable packaging typically used for transportation and distribution of masks."

            2. The text in the section on European Standards refers to ‘community face masks’ and ‘Community Face Coverings’.  Table 1 refers to ‘Community Masks’.  Are these the same thing?  Could you please clarify?  It would also be useful to explain what is meant by community mask.

            These are all the same have amended the text to use the standard term ‘Community Face Covering’. We state that a Community Mask is one that complies with guidelines set out in CWA 17553:2020.

            3. The footnote in Table 1 isn’t clear, particularly from ‘but these masks…’ onwards.  Please rephrase.

            We have amended this to make it clearer.

            4. What are the ‘wash bags’ referred to in the section on Materials and their Filtration Efficiency?

            We have now explained this term in the text.

            5. In the Cost Comparison Section under Disposal, the text refers to the weight of a single-use mask.  Strictly speaking, this is mass.

            We have corrected this in the text.

            6. Is there a better way to present the information in Figure 3?  The washing and disposal categories are difficult to make out on the graph.

            We have changed the original figure from a bar chart comparison to a pie chart comparison and added the percentage breakdown of the cost categories.

            7. Could you please check the data in Figure 4?  The Republic of Ireland is highlighted in yellow, but I don’t think this is the case.  It’s also not clear what is meant by ‘yellow indicates countries where mandatory mask use is imposed on part of the country only but their use is recommended by government’.  Do you mean that their use country-wide is recommended but not mandated by government?

            We rephrased the figure caption to “Yellow indicates countries where mask use was mandated by law in parts of the country and governmentally recommended in other parts.”

            8. There is a sentence in the Discussion and Conclusions section that states that ‘anecdotal evidence in the UK suggests that very few people wear their reusable masks every day’.  It’s not clear what this sentence is meant to tell us and I suggest deleting it.  People mightn’t wear their reusable mask every day for a variety of reasons, like not going anywhere that requires mask use or wearing a disposable mask instead.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not following the guidelines.

            We have removed that phrase.

            9. Further on in the discussion, the text states that ‘governments may consider stockpiling masks…’.  Is this referring to single-use masks?  In the last paragraph, the text uses the phrase ‘capacity capable’ – is this the correct phrase?

            We have clarified these phrases.

            10. There are a few minor grammatical errors throughout the paper.  Please give the paper one final proof-read

            We have completed a final proof-read and made minor grammatical error corrections.

            Other corrections: updated colouring of Tables A11 and A13; references updated.


            Author and article information

            UCL Open: Environment Preprint
            UCL Press
            28 June 2021
            [1 ] UCL Plastic Waste Innovation Hub, University College London, London, UK
            Author notes

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            UKRI/EPSRC EP/S024883/1

            All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article (and its supplementary information files).

            Environmental management, Policy & Planning

            PPE, Disposable, Reusable, face mask, LCA, MFA, Surgical mask, Sustainability, Systems modelling, Environmental policy and practice


            Date: 05 July 2021

            Handling Editor: Professor Dan Osborn

            Editorial decision: Accept. This revised article has been accepted following peer review and it is suitable for publication in UCL Open: Environment.

            2021-07-06 09:46 UTC

            Date: 05 July 2021

            Handling Editor: Professor Dan Osborn

            The article has been revised, this article remains a preprint article and peer-review has not been completed. It is under consideration following submission to UCL Open: Environment for open peer review.

            2021-07-06 09:45 UTC

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