Updated: Sep 27, 2021
🚨Without guidelines for safe disposal of used face masks, the health of people and the planet are at risk.
Disposable face masks typically consist of 3 layers; the inner layer is made of an absorbent material, such as cotton, the middle layer is made of polypropylene plastic fibres, and the outer layer is made of polyester blend. These plastic fibres, can generate a large number of micro-sized particles in the environment during a relatively short period and further fragment into nano plastics (smaller than 1 micrometer) due to weathering.
According to a recent report from the conservation nonprofit Oceans Asia, an estimation of 1.56 billion face masks entered the ocean in 2020 during the COVID pandemic, and soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the Mediterranean.
As the world struggles to fight coronavirus, the upcycling industry has been developing ideas to handle disposable face masks in different ways.
French start-up Plaxtil offers a solution for disposable face masks, having recycled almost 100,000 masks. They remove the metal bar from the masks and grind them; the crushed masks are then passed through a UV tunnel to be completely decontaminated. Then, they transform these shreds into PLAXTIL material, used to make objects of protection against Covid-19: mask fasteners, door openers, protective visors, etc.
Another example, Kim Ha-neul, a South Korean design student majoring in furniture design, transforms disposable face masks into upcycled stools. Kim collected the masks at his school and keeps them in storage for at least four days to lessen the risk of coronavirus transmission. Afterwards, he removes the elastic and metal, then melts the plastic layers into stools.
Precious Plastic has also been experimenting with defective disposable masks using their Precious Plastic machine lineup. They create lots of cool products from the masks, showing that it is possible to upcycle this new ocean plastic polluter into some long-lasting useful products.
Set up disposable face mask collection points.
Waste management company TerraCycle has “Zero Waste Boxes” to collect and recycle face masks. The masks are then sent to partner facilities to be recycled into plastic granules that are sold to manufacturers that make other products such as benches, flooring surfaces, or shipping pallets.
We should urge more private companies and governments to recycle face masks by setting up face mask collection sites for more people to dispose of them properly, preventing them from entangling and harming the environment and wildlife.
The Sea Monkeys are going to experiment with the face mask to make some cool items using our 3-in-1 Plastic Recycling machine!
Until then, stay tuned!
Working with loop2cycle, our expanded sister company!
loop2cycle specializes in providing commercially viable and sustainable plastic recycling machines, including our unique 3-in-1 plastic upcycler. These machines continue to enable groups and communities around the world to turn plastic waste into quality products. This generates greater awareness of the plastic pollution crisis, provides employment and the potential to generate income in developing nations, whilst reducing plastic pollution in all cases.
Get in touch today to learn how loop2cycle can help you reduce your plastic pollution footprint!