How to dispose of face masks in an environmentally friendly way
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause chaos worldwide, the question remains of how to ensure face mask disposal is environmentally friendly. As covid-19 waste (including masks, gloves & other PPE) builds up and increases, the issue becomes all the more prevalent, with discarded masks & gloves reportedly seen on roadsides & waterways.
In many Asian countries such as China & Japan, face masks have been commonplace for some time. However, since the Covid-19 pandemic, sales of disposable face coverings have boomed worldwide.
The use of masks & PPE has become mandatory in many settings. In the UK, wearing a mask is required when entering all shops, supermarkets, salons, places of worship and other indoor settings. In a growing number of workplaces, masks are also compulsory, most notably within hospitals & health service providers.
There is no doubt the rules are in place to protect us from the virus, but that protection comes at a price. The surge in usage contributes to a drastic increase in single-use plastic waste. With some saying the disposable face mask is the ‘new plastic bottle’.
Estimates say globally were using 129 billion disposable masks & 65 billion plastic gloves every month. Despite reusable versions being available, the quality & regular washing of which cannot be certain, which means many companies opt-in for disposable masks for safety reasons.
The environmental cost of throwing away billions of single-use plastics every month is harrowing. The WWF says, “If only 1% of the worlds face masks are disposed of incorrectly, 10 million masks will still end up polluting fragile ecosystems every month. Considering that each mask’s weight is about 4 grams, this would entail the dispersion of over 40 thousand kilograms of plastic in nature.
How can you dispose of a mask safely?
Back in April, the UK government issued guidance on how to dispose of covid waste safely. They advised PPE should be thrown out with the household waste in a rubbish bag, sealed with a second rubbish bag. The outside bag should be secured tightly and kept away from other peoples waste.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) advised on masks specifically. Saying, remove it from behind (do not touch the front of the mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; wash hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) say any used items ‘can not be recycled’ in your standard home or workplace recycling bins. Also advising that anyone with symptoms should store their waste for 72 hours before putting it in communal areas or bins.
Is environmentally friendly face mask disposal possible?
As reports of disposable masks found in the environment increase, many organisations are looking to ensure face mask disposal can be done in an eco-friendly way. ReWorked director Steve Carrie says, “The statistics we have seen on the environmental impact of face masks have scared us into action! We have developed and experimented with innovative recycling methods to find a way to utilise a range of ‘hard to recycle’ plastics, including disposable face masks, plastic gloves and other covid PPE”.
Companies can purchase a Covid-waste, PPE bin made from 100% recycled plastic board or PPE recycling box, supplied to collect all masks & gloves. ReWorked will then organise regular waste pick-up, where the single-use plastics will be safely processed and contribute to making more boards, bins and other repurposed products.
The process involves collecting materials via our waste box containing a 97% Recycled LDPE liner; this allows for double containment. Once collected, it is held for a minimum 72hr COVID quarantine period.
Once inspected, the bag liners are removed and the contents pre-shredded. The box is recycled to a new packaging media, and the liner sent for processing back into the next batch of bags.
The facemask and PPE material, once shredded, is sent to the blending area, where it is combined with a mixture of polymers from ocean cleans, verge cleans, food and cosmetic wastes.
Lastly, the materials are bonded into a board at high temperature (230degrees C); the board can then be placed back into use or made into a new product on site.
How can you help Reclaim The Mask?
If you are an individual – Sharing the message is more valuable than ever! Many people are not aware that disposable mask recycling is even possible. Please spread the message, use the #ReclaimTheMask hashtag and share our content as much as possible. Find our content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn & YouTube.
If you are a business (or key player) – Join the scheme! PPE collection & sanitiser stations & PPE recycling boxes are available to purchase – or you can contact our team directly – firstname.lastname@example.org
We will arrange regular waste pick-ups, and you can sleep soundly, knowing every last mask will be made into something new. Taking responsibility environmentally as a business has growing importance to your customers – showing you’re considering your impact not only helps the planet but also shows your company values. We pride ourselves on assisting companies PR & marketing efforts when participating in our recycling schemes – contact email@example.com for more info.
As a brand, we also recommend sponsoring a bin; it is a simple way to help the cause and serves as a brilliant promotional tool.
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
If you are a news outlet/media – Sharing the message for us is critical! If you would like to chat about how you can assist the campaign, get in touch at email@example.com
Follow ReWorked on social media.