We've been getting this question a lot lately so we thought it's time to have a chat about recycling masks and gloves. Back in January wearing a mask seemed like something you only did during Halloween, now mask fashion is all the rage.
Check out some great designs here if you're looking to jazz up your mask fashion game! https://www.vogue.com/slideshow/stylish-face-masks-to-shop-now
The short answer to can I recycle my masks or gloves is probably not but maybe.
OK, let's try to make that a bit more clear. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is not accepted in the standard recycling stream so putting it in your mixed recycling bin at home or at work will likely result in it either being picked out a recycling sorting plant or worst case contaminating an entire load of recycling - this means the whole load could go to landfill/incineration.
You are also potentially increasing the risk of infection for the frontline waste and recycling workers who are handling your materials. Best practice is to bag and dispose of your PPE in the standard waste stream if you do not have specialized recycling services for PPE.
If you need a sample sign letting your customers and employees that masks, gloves, and wipes should go in the garbage RecycleSmart has created a template below that can be used.
For PPE recycling there are a few options, the easiest being Terracycle which provides an easy mail in option for recycling masks, gloves, etc. If you are a medium to low volume generator of PPE waste this could be a good solution for collecting PPE and recycling these materials.
If you are a medical, personal care or dental business you should keep in mind that any PPE with blood, bodily fluids, etc. should be treated as medical waste and not put into PPE recycling or standard waste bins.
Can masks be recycled?
The short answer is not really although there are lots of work being done worldwide to try to recycle, reuse or otherwise extend the life of masks both to reduce waste and help address supply issues. Yale researchers are investigating ways to sterilize masks which could extend the life of masks but this is not widespread as a practice yet.
Stay safe, stay sane, and remember to both wear PPE and dispose of PPE correctly.