Details

Single-Use Mask Recycling Launched at Concord

Michelle Blake

Environmental Specialist

Toromont Cat, Concord

Face masks are still an essential part of everyday life when it comes to the ongoing prevention against Covid-19.

While non-medical masks made of fabric can be washed at 60 degrees and re-used, medical and single-use masks cannot and the unfortunate side effect of their use has been a staggering increase in plastic waste. Researchers from Denmark found that we are throwing away 129 billion plastic face masks around the globe every month.

Single-use masks are hard to recycle in traditional recycling systems as they cost more for local recyclers to collect and process than the resulting materials are worth. They should not be placed in your local blue bins. However, there are services and vendors specialized in recycling such waste streams.

We have initiated a new Zero Waste program for the recycling of single-use masks at our Concord branch. Staff can safely drop off their used single-use face masks in designated Mask Recycling Boxes.

The process works as follows:

1. Collection

The disposable face masks are collected in a Zero Waste Box. Once the box is full, it is sealed and sent back to the recycling vendor. Cloth, DIY, paper masks and masks used in healthcare facilities are not accepted.

2. Check in

When the shipment arrives at a dedicated Material Recovery Facility, it is checked in and weighed. All Zero Waste Boxes are quarantined on arrival for a minimum of 72 hours to protect those handling the waste. 

The waste is visibly inspected for contamination and then consolidated into a bulk format to be transported for processing.

3. Recycling

The waste is sorted into categories based on material composition (rubbers, metals, non-woven plastic, elastane, etc.) by utilizing a wide array of sorting technologies including manual sortation, size separation, sink/float, optical, air density, gravity, magnetic, etc. 

The different material types are then recycled into usable forms (i.e., non-woven plastics are recycled into plastic pellets and granules.)

Any metals are manually removed and sent locally for smelting into new bar stock and metal sheeting.

The polypropylene-dominant mixture from the face mask is densified into a crumb-like raw material that is used in plastic lumber and composite decking applications.

The elastane or rubber band portion is ground into a fine mesh regrind and mixed with recycled plastics as an additive to provide flexibility and malleability to products.

4. New Products

The resulting recycled material is used to manufacture a variety of new products including outdoor furniture, plastic shipping pallets, outdoor decking, watering cans, storage containers, bins, tubes for construction applications, etc.

If your branch is interested in participating in this initiative, please contact your local Zero Waste Champion, your Product Support Manager or Corporate Environment (Michelle Blake).

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