It is well known that surgical masks were not conceived to be recycled, but were designed to protect.
- They are neither washable nor reusable and, to avoid contamination, it is recommended to change them every four hours.
- They should not be discarded in recycling bins, organic bins or in the environment under any circumstances.
In an environmentally responsible way, how can we get rid of the huge quantity of masks, we accumulate every day? Options such as recycling, landfilling and incineration are limited and the guidelines to follow are still very unclear. In this article, we will try to shed some light on this topic that concerns many.
The authorities recommend that soiled masks be treated as contaminated materials and suggest that they be put in a sealed bag and then placed in a closed waste container; however, this is not the only option. On its website, Recyc-Québec, a Quebec recovery and recycling company, has identified a few businesses that offer mask recovery services, but invites customers to contact them to find out about costs, recycling methods and the final destination of the recycled material.
Almost all of these companies provide a similar box or bin collection service. On the other hand, the type of treatment differs. Here are the three different processes available:
- Some offer energy recovery, meaning the material is incinerated to generate steam and electricity;
- Some subject the masks to quarantine, then disinfect, sort and separate each material. The soft part of the mask is sent to a recycler that produces plastic beads and the aluminum from the nose bars is completely recycled;
- Some densify and recycle the masks into delivery pallets or railway ties.
Experts believe that recycling or incineration are not always ideal solutions, as these methods can have a negative impact on the environment. According to Karel Ménard, Executive Director at Front commun québécois pour une gestion écologique des déchets (FCQGED): “The incineration of masks can result in the release of dioxins and furans, substances that are extremely harmful to humans and are persistent in the environment.”
At the moment, landfill is the preferred option for the disposal of used surgical masks. It is certainly less expensive, but not necessarily the best solution from an environmental perspective.
At Aurelia, we strive to make our masks environmentally friendly, as we are a proud carbon neutral company committed to reduce greenhouse gases, optimize our waste management, rethink product lifecycles and modify product components to make them biodegradable.
For more information on this topic, follow our news feed!