How to Properly Dispose Your Face Masks

They've littered streets and waterways throughout the pandemic – but now, you can recycle them


Prior to Covid-19, the environmental movement in the UK was brewing with the ban of plastic straws but when the pandemic hit, we found ourselves reverting back to single-use products once again.

Whilst the government advised the public to wear disposable face masks for personal safety due to the transmission rates of the virus, and scarcity of PPE for front line workers, many later switched to non-reusables such as medical mask type IIRs and FFP2s, due to the high filtration melt-blown layer known to filter at least 94% of airborne particles. Whilst some environmentalist urge people to wear reusable masks instead, where appropriate, experts agree medical-grade masks are better than reusable cloth masks – and studies back that up. In the UK, cloth masks don’t have to adhere to any safety standards so they vary massively in how protective they are.

Significant amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) are being littered across the world, with the average medical mask weighing 3.5g

Albeit the high effectiveness of protection of the non-reusables is justifiable, after just a few hours of use, masks were discarded in bins or even seen littering the streets, waterways and, causing destruction on wildlife. According to the action group Waste Free Oceans, they can take 450 years to decompose in nature. With more than eight million entering oceans annually- ultimately threatening the ecosystems of marine wildlife. Whilst such masks have been considered non-recyclable, there are companies now finding ways to repurpose all of this waste.

Through ShieldWear, businesses can join the recycling scheme to buy a PPE Bin (which can store up to 3000 masks) or Pallet Boxes, for larger companies. Once full, collection bins are taken away and recycled masks will be processed. After a minimum 72-hour quarantine period, an average of 7,500 recycled masks are washed, shredded and mixed with other waste plastic and heated to 200+ degrees Celsius and pressed in durable 30kg boards to become solid sheets of recycled plastic. These go on to become refashioned into products ranging from other safety materials for businesses, to building materials and furniture.

ShieldWear, an established distributor of PPE, is now providing an end-to-end solution for business’ PPE needs. When buying PPE with ShieldWear, you can sign up for PPE recycling points to provide disposable mask recycling points for your business and employees.

With PPE widely accessible, the hope is that the sustainable discarding of it is just as accessible. These types recycling schemes will provide an easy way for individuals and businesses to safely dispose of used PPE while enabling them to do their part for the planet.


About ShieldWear Ltd

ShieldWear Ltd is a distributor of personal protective equipment, focusing primarily on respiratory equipment. The company is committed and dedicated to achieving excellence for customers across the world via rigorous quality assurance processes. Through intense due diligence, ShieldWear have built a network of trusted suppliers around the globe. The direct access to PPE supply manufacturers and storage in UK and European warehouses cuts through global supply chain delays. ShieldWear Ltd is headquartered in London, UK.


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