Medical face masks could be recycled into items such as curtains or bedsheets, the government has said as it reviews the potential of reusable Type IIR medical grade masks in acute settings.
According to reports by BBC news, Health minister Edward Argar said the Department of Health and Social Care was also considering how to recycle materials in Covid test kits.
In response to a question from Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney, Mr Argar said the government was looking at ways of recycling face masks and other personal protective equipment.
“We are reviewing the potential of reusable Type IIR [medical grade] masks in acute settings, using existing laundry services to reduce the need for single-use products,” he said.
We have recycled 22 million visors to make plastic containers, which can be used to store food items and will also be recyclable
These types of masks would be “recycled into curtains, mattress covers or other products”, the minister said.
“We plan to pilot reusable eye protection where the product can be recycled at the end of its life. We have recycled 22 million visors to make plastic containers, which can be used to store food items and will also be recyclable.”
He added that NHS Test and Trace was “exploring alternatives to current test devices” which would be “safe, effective and made of predominantly recyclable or biodegradable materials”.
Ms Olney welcomed the announcement saying that many of her constituents had raised concerns at the volume of plastic in test kits and disposable masks.
Since the start of the pandemic, an estimated 8.4m tonnes of plastic waste has been generated from 193 countries, according to a study published in the journal PNAS, the majority of which ends up in landfill or, in some areas, in the ocean, the study suggests.
Tens of thousands of tonnes of extra medical waste from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has put ‘tremendous strain’ on health care waste management systems around the world, threatening human and environmental health and exposing a dire need to improve waste management practices, according to a WHO report published at the beginning of February (2022).