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Restore Datashred News

Masks unmasked
/ Categories: August

Masks unmasked

Where do discarded face masks go?

One way or another, face masks have been a hot topic throughout the pandemic. From obtaining supplies of the correct level of protection for health workers, to wearing a disposable version to go shopping, the face mask has been centre stage.  

So, where do discarded face masks – and single-use masks in particular – go? On the evidence of our own eyes – in the park, in fields, on the pavement, down the loo, on shop floors, in waste bins, in household recycling… Single use masks are everywhere.

And no wonder.

Estimates indicate that, worldwide, we are using a staggering 129 billion face masks a month. In the understatement of the decade – that’s a lot of waste littering our highways and byways, going into landfill or crowding out the jellyfish in the sea.

In the UK alone, the University College London Plastic Waste Innovation Hub team has calculated that we will generate 66,000 tonnes of plastic waste and 57,000 tonnes of plastic packaging if every one of us uses just one single-use mask a day for a year. For health professionals who bear a greater ‘viral load’ through the hours they spend at work, and therefore need access to more frequent changes of PPE, this figure pushes even higher. As a society we had started to reverse single-use plastic in everyday life, but that trend has done a sharp handbrake turn.

There’s no doubt that there are problems with disposing of them correctly.

Greatest of all in safe disposal is the health hazard face masks pose. The risk of contagion means that they should be thrown away into a double bagged rubbish system to help keep colleagues, family and waste disposal operatives safe. Sadly, they cannot be recycled at present.

But all is not lost. Here at Restore Datashred we have ways, and suggestions, for reducing the size of the landfill mountain.

  1. The simplest way for all of us to reduce our carbon footprint is to use fabric face coverings that are re-usable many times over. Environmentally speaking, when they are washed frequently at a highish temperature, fabric face coverings quickly become worth their weight in washing powder.
  2. Given that we aren’t able to dispose of clinical waste at Restore, sadly we can‘t affect landfill quantities for used single-use face masks. But we can still help.

Here’s how…

If you have any quantity of single-use masks – unused or expired, or not fit for purpose – and they are taking up valuable space in your organisation, this is where we can step in.

Contact us and one of our professional operatives will collect, securely and hygienically, and transport them to our shredding centre closest to you. We will shred and send you a certificate of destruction within hours of receipt.

Not only that, we shred fabrics and textiles, too. Read more about what we do for textiles – including their recycling and use as a source of energy – and our commitment to 0% landfill here.

Get in touch with one of our friendly, knowledgeable customer service team here at Restore Datashred on 0800 376 4422 to find out how we can help you recycle face masks.  
And isn’t it good to know that, at the end of the day, by placing that call, you are doing the best you can for the environment in our current situation?