Can You Recycle Single-Use Plastic Masks? Medallion Does!

During the pandemic, many people relied on single-use plastic masks to keep themselves safe. They’ve been handed out everywhere, from medical offices to restaurants to job sites. But now, as used masks litter the sidewalks and fill trash cans, experts are wondering how much damage these face coverings are doing to our environment.

One of the biggest problems is the use of polypropylene plastic, not only in disposable masks, but also medical-grade surgical masks. When the plastic parts break up into smaller pieces, it can take as long as 450 years for them to decompose.

OceansAsia, a nonprofit marine conservation advocacy organization, recently estimated that more than 1.5 billion face masks entered oceans in 2020, resulting in an additional 5,160 to 6,880 U.S. tons of marine plastic pollution.

So far, the use of single-use plastic masks is showing few signs of slowing down. According to research from the University of Southern Denmark that was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, if the global population uses an average of one disposable face mask per day, our worldwide trash disposal services will be required to process 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves each month. That adds up to 3 million masks disposed of every minute.

A New Way to Keep PPE Out of Landfills or the Ocean

Disposable masks and PPE are hard to recycle in traditional recycling systems because they are made up of a mixture of materials that require special handling, so it’s usually cheaper for local recyclers to send them to the landfill.

Service By Medallion has adopted an innovative solution that enables us to recycle masks as well as all the other disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) that our employees use every day. We’ve partnered with a company called TerraCycle® that currently works in 20 countries to collect typically impossible-to-recycle items and transform them into useful new products.

At the job site, Medallion employees place used PPE into TerraCycle’s Safety Equipment and Protective Gear Zero Waste Box™. Once the box is full, we use the prepaid return label to ship the materials back to TerraCycle.

All Zero Waste Boxes are quarantined on arrival for a minimum of 72 hours to protect TerraCycle’s team members from coming into contact with any lingering traces of viruses or other potentially harmful materials. TerraCycle then separates each mask into its recyclable components, including rubber, metal, non-woven plastic, and the rubber band.

TerraCycle sends the resulting recycled material to companies who use them to manufacture a variety of new products including outdoor furniture, plastic shipping pallets, outdoor decking, watering cans, storage containers, bins, and tubes used in construction. Gloves are processed into a rubberized powder that is used for flooring tiles, playground surface covers, and the playing surface of athletic fields.

Thanks to our partnership with TerraCycle, Medallion is helping to keep our oceans safe and finding innovative new uses for the masks, gloves, garments, hairnets, beardnets, earplugs, and safety glasses our employees use every day.

Service By Medallion delivers “best in class” industry-leading programs through real-time response, innovation, performance analytics, technology, and expertise. Give us a call at (833) 987-2031 to get a quote or just find out more about our comprehensive commercial cleaning, facility maintenance, and staffing services.

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