How to reduce PPE litter

Reduce PPE Litter
We all know that litter was a problem before the pandemic. No one imagined that the disposable PPE designed to keep us safe would make it so much worse. How many discarded face masks or pairs of gloves have you seen out on your walks? With billions of face masks and gloves used globally every month and social distancing still needed. PPE litter remains a growing and serious problem. It’s a health risk, it’s polluting our beaches and waterways, and harming wildlife. So how do you reduce PPE litter?

Wilko's disposable face mask recycling scheme

A new campaign being launched by the retailer Wilko is bringing some hope that the situation can be brought under control. It has launched a disposable face mask recycling scheme in 150 of its stores across England. Customers will be able to safely dispose of their used masks in collection bins at the front of the stores. Aiming to reduce PPE litter.

Wilko has teamed up with the recycling company ReWorked and recycling technology firm Scan2Recycle to launch the scheme, named #ReclaimTheMask. The main material used to make the face masks are polypropylene, which is sent to ReWorked for processing. Because of the health risks, the masks are held in quarantine for 72 hours. Then they are washed and shredded into tiny pieces and mixed with other waste plastic. 

The plastic mixture is then heated to over 200°C and pressed into boards, which are turned into building materials, furniture and wheelie bins. The campaign is being launched on April 1st and it will run for three months. You can find out where your nearest participating Wilko store is here

What else can you do to reduce the PPE litter problem?

Reduce PPE litter, use a bin!

Don’t put your mask in the recycling bin. Instead, double bag it, then after 72 hours, it’s safe to put in your bin. 

Make your own reusable mask 

Disposable face masks create a lot of waste because they are single-use. Using a reusable mask is better for the environment. If you’re crafty, you can have fun making something unique. There are some great ‘make your own’ reusable face mask patterns and instructions online. 

Buy some reusable masks 

Many small businesses have suffered during the pandemic. Why not do them a favour and buy your reusable masks from them? There are some great eco-friendly options on sites like Etsy. Where small, independent companies sell masks made from recyclable materials or natural materials like cotton. Many are organic and certified free from harmful chemicals. So they’ll be gentle on your skin as well as good for the planet. This will completely reduce the PPE litter issue.

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