Wearing a mask is now mandated by health authorities to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Some are made of cotton and can be washed but others like medical masks which are single use and made of plastic are winding up being thrown on the ground. In some cases, even ending up in our waterways and oceans.
Now one company in Burnaby, B.C. says it has a solution.
Mikhail Moore is the president of Vitacore Industries, a company that started in May of 2020 to fill the need of supplying Canadian made, high grade personal protection equipment like N-95 and N-99 respirators along with medical masks they make at their manufacturing facility.
“The procedure for recycling it was not very complicated in the fact that the masks are mostly made up of polypropylene plastic which is already recyclable,” says Moore, who partnered with McMaster University and the University of British Columbia to develop recycle bins.
For now, they are located in some Urgent Care Centres and Long- term Care Facilities in Metro Vancouver but hope to expand the program nationally.
After being sanitized the recycled masks are turned into plastic pellets which can be re-used in construction materials.
Experts say the improper disposal of masks and gloves is turning into an environmental catastrophe.
“The gloves can look like food to some marine animals and so there is a danger that if they swallow that it’s going to block their intestine and then of course they starve to death,” says Karen Wristen, the executive director of the Living Oceans Society.
“It’s not ok to throw anything out how is it ok to throw out a mask personal protection equipment that is meant to protect against viruses- why would you put that on the ground? No one else is going to pick it up in case its contaminated. It’s just a travesty!”
It’s estimated that 1.5 billion used masks will end up in the ocean this year.