THE founder of a sustainable tartan mill is calling on the Scottish Government to make clear its policy on reusable masks to avoid a “plastic pandemic”.

Single-use masks and plastic gloves have become an unfortunate by-product of the coronavirus pandemic and as many people embark on staycation holidays around Scotland, they are becoming a blight on areas of natural beauty.

The Highland tartan mill Prickly Thistle highlighted the need to have a clear government agenda to encourage people to choose reusable and biodegradable masks after seeing plastics across the Clootie Well in the Black Isle.

Clootie Wells were places of ­pilgrimage in Celtic culture where strips of cloth or rags are left as part of a healing ritual and the practice continues to this day.

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Prickly Thistle is a sustainable tartan brand based near Inverness which has created its own reusable masks that have been properly tested. Its founder Clare Campbell has been calling on government ministers to introduce a framework for a tested, reusable and recyclable mask for use in the community since April last year but has not received a reply.

She told The National that she has made consistent attempts to contact Scottish Government ministers about the possibility of introducing the framework but her queries have not been considered and often ignored.

She said: “I have asked why does Scotland not have a tested framework for community use mask products that I have proven can be wholly manufactured in Scotland, not by us but by the whole sector.

“Yesterday I received an email back from [Trade Minister] Ivan McKee giving me a link to how I can provide the NHS with masks. They didn’t even answer my question.”

She continued: “What my point has been from the beginning is why are we waiting for the horse to bolt into the hospital if the virus is already in the community?

“And then there is the whole sustainability side of it where there does not seem to be any accountability at a government level for something that they are effectively encouraging by not addressing.

The National:

“We do not need to create a plastic pandemic from these single-use products when there is an alternative.”

She added that ahead of Scotland hosting the COP26 climate summit in November, this could have been an opportunity to show Scotland’s green potential to the rest of the world in giving everyone reusable and recyclable masks that could then be used for other purposes like home insulation.

Prickly Thistle released their Mask of Integrity in October 2020 which offers a customisable subscription service. They worked with the Edinburgh-based Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) to test the particle filtration and fit of the wool face mask design so that it provides optimal ­protection for users.

They have also worked with Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) to ensure that the masks returned as part of the subscription service will be recovered and repurposed.

Campbell said that this is the idea she has been trying to present to the Government for a mask that is made of natural fabrics, provides good protection with the company that makes it taking responsibility for its repurposing.

Iain Gulland of ZWS said: ­“Littered face coverings are a needless recent blight on our open spaces. Reusable coverings are the preferred method of keeping people safe as they protect our health and also protect the ­environment.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We would encourage people to wash and reuse their own face coverings rather than using single use face coverings. The Scottish Government is committed to building back a greener society. By reducing our reliance on single use items, we are taking positive steps to limit our impact on the climate and environment.”