How to recycle PPE (Covid masks, gloves, visors etc.)

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause chaos around the world; covid waste (including masks, gloves & other PPE) discarded improperly into our environment becomes more prevalent. Estimates say globally we are using 129 billion disposable masks & 65 billion plastic gloves every month. 

Seeing masks scattered amongst our streets, shocked us into action quickly. We knew this covid-waste issue wasn’t going away any time soon, and it needed addressing! 

We decided to create a call to action, for all businesses to take responsibility for their customers, staff & dependents PPE waste. The aim to reduce the number of masks & gloves going to landfill or ending up in the environment. We launched the campaign Reclaim The Mask as a way of encouraging companies to take action.

Our solution to this issue is to provide a full-service PPE & covid-waste recycling process. Whereby businesses & establishments can house dedicated, health & safety secure bins where PPE can be disposed of. We then use our innovative recycling technologies to recover the waste materials completely. 

 

PPE face mask covid gloves recycling

 

Step 1 – PPE waste (masks, gloves, visors etc.), as well as any other hard-to-recycle plastics, are collected in a ReWorked PPE Bin or recycling box.

Step 2 – Once the box is full, our dedicated courier service will arrange collection.

Step 3 – Once the box arrives at the depot via courier, the recycling process can begin. Firstly the details & weight of the box are recorded on our system. 

Step 4 – The box and its contents go into ‘lockdown’ for a minimum of 72 hours; to ensure the safety of the ReWorked recycling team. 

Step 5 – Once the quarantine ends, we transfer the PPE to our sorting tables (built from recycled plastic, of course). The material is split & manually checked by our trained staff. We are looking for un-accepted material initially. 

Step 6 – The PPE material then goes through our pre-shredding system to open the structure up. As we accept materials with residues & dirt, this process is vital to opening up the material to be washed thoroughly. 

Step 7 – High-pressure washing and high frication remove any residues or dirt from the plastics.

Step 8 – Once clean, the materials are shredded again – This time into 5mm pieces. This is blended with other plastics (to an exact recipe for consistency) to make up the core of our boards.

Step 9 – The plastic mix is taken to the board mill to be pressed into 8×4 sheets. The Stormboard press lays two ‘outer coatings’ and a core, before using heat to fuse into a durable sheet.

Step 10 – The plastic has now been officially recycled into a product bound for a new life!

Our innovative processes set us apart from the pack, where most refuse to attempt PPE recycling; we love the challenge! 

A few of the reasons recycling face masks & gloves is so tricky include:

Health & safety – We ensure all boxes are fitted with an LDPE liner & lid, so the box & contents can be secured safely. Upon arrival at ReWorked HQ the boxes are quarantined for a minimum of 72 hours to prevent any potential virus spread. We have state of the art cleaning technologies, that can ensure any medical-grade PPE is cleaned to a high health standard. 

Metal strips – Many face masks specifically have metal nose clips within them, which is why they are partly considered non-recyclable. We do not shy away from this. The metal elements are removed and also recycled on-site. 

Mixed polymers – Many masks & visors have ear elastic or are made of multiple plastic types fuzed together. Because of the innovative recycling methods we are able to recycle mixed polymers all together into boards.

At ReWorked we are dedicated to our ethos that NOTHING IS NON-RECYCLABLE.