How to dispose of face masks in an environmentally friendly way
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause chaos around the world; 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.
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.
One UK-based company has come up with an innovative recycling method to tackle the environmental issue posed by a rise of single-use plastic masks & gloves. Reworked (www.reworked.com) have launched campaign #ReclaimTheMask (https://www.reworked.com/2020/10/22/reclaimthemask-what-is-reclaim-the-mask-recycling/) to help raise awareness & connect with businesses who use large amounts of PPE regularly. They can provide a full-service recycling solution for any sized company or establishment.
As numbers of confirmed cases rise, 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. Some have said the disposable face mask is the ‘new plastic bottle’. Estimates say globally we are 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 the weight of each mask 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 for a way to ensure face mask disposal can be done in an eco-friendly way. ReWorked (www.reworked.com) director, Steve Carrie says “The statistics we’ve 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”.
ReWorked (www.reworked.com) have launched a campaign in light of the pandemic, aptly titled #ReclaimTheMask (https://www.reworked.com/2020/10/22/reclaimthemask-what-is-reclaim-the-mask-recycling/) – with the aim to collaborate with businesses who use large amounts of PPE, on setting up a full-service recycling system. Companies can purchase a Covid-waste, PPE bin made from 100% recycled plastic board supplied to collect all masks & gloves. ReWorked (www.reworked.com) 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 the collection of materials via our waste box that contains a 97% Recycled LDPE liner; this allows for double containment. Once collected we hold the boxes 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 our next batch of bags. The Facemask and PPE material, once shredded, is sent to our 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. So please spread the message, use the #ReclaimTheMask hashtag and share our content as much as possible, if you spot a mask on the floor or in the environment share that too. Find our content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & LinkedIn - @ReWorkedGB
If you are a business (or key player) – Get a sanitiser and PPE bin from us – made from 100% recycled waste plastics! 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. 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’d like to chat about how you can assist the campaign, get in touch at email@example.com
For individuals who are not required to change masks regularly, the most eco-friendly option is a reusable mask. Machine washable masks are widely available online and are ideal for minimising the environmental impact. Health experts recommend having more than one mask and washing reusable masks after each use.
We want as many people as possible to know about our innovative methods that make environmentally friendly face mask disposal possible. So please share the message, use the hashtag #ReclaimTheMask