A new scheme in-store at wilko will see customers able to drop off used, disposable face masks so that they can be recycled and reused as everything from building materials to new furniture for communities in need, it says.
150 of the home and garden retailer’s stores nationwide will have special collection bins for customers to safely drop off their used single use face masks, after shopping for essential items in-store.
Face masks are currently mandatory nationwide as the public takes steps to keep themselves and others safe while out in public during the pandemic.
Once full, these collection bins are then taken away by ReWorked, who together with Metrisk Ltd, Scan2Recycle and wilko are partnering to make the unique scheme possible – the ‘first of its kind on the UK high street’, wilko says.
We are being flooded with single-use plastics and the only way to stop this flood is by turning off the taps. For masks, this means promoting the use of reusable masks wherever appropriate.
Collected masks are shredded down into raw materials, which can be sustainably refashioned into products ranging from other safety materials for businesses, to building materials and even quality, durable public space furniture.
The Covid-19 crisis has seen a huge increase in the use of disposable face masks as the nation adapts its everyday behaviour around public safety guidelines. While the government has encouraged Brits to dispose of face masks via general waste bins, there has been an ever-increasing volume of PPE being discarded in public spaces – meaning there are often greater levels of litter nationwide in areas such as parks, beaches and high streets; impacting the life and leisure time of local communities, endangering wildlife and ultimately harming the health of the planet.
Disposable face masks are made from polypropylene fabric – a type of plastic. An estimated 8M tonnes of general plastic waste already ended up in the world’s oceans every year, and the impact of the pandemic will only increase those figures if PPE litter continues to increase.
Wilko and its partners for this scheme hope that providing an easy way to safely dispose of used PPE will help make it easier for hardworking Brits to reduce litter in the community and in turn do their bit for the planet.
Jerome Saint Marc, CEO at wilko, said: “One of our core values is to show we care and, we understand the importance of climate change to our customers who expect us to take-action on their behalf and make better choices about caring for the environment.
“That’s why we’re thrilled to have developed this scheme, which makes it super simple for shoppers to safely recycle a product which is often unavoidably discarded as a result of us all taking steps to protect the health of everyone around us. What’s more, it also means we’re able to help hardworking families, local communities and other businesses by turning something that we’re simply throwing away into a useful and sustainable product that can have a genuinely positive impact.”
The environmental organisation, City to Sea, welcomed a new recycling scheme but has warned that it will be “just a drop in a very plastic polluted ocean” unless there is a wholesale shift towards reusable masks.
Latest studies suggest that 129 billion face masks are used across the world every month – this equates to 2.8 million every minute.
If you have a single-use mask already I encourage you to use it and then recycle it, but if you are considering buying a mask I urge you to buy a few reusable masks that you can use time and time again
According to an analysis by scientists at University College London, if every person in the UK used one less single-use mask each day for a year, this would save 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste from being created to begin with, City to Sea says.
Responding to the new scheme, City to Sea’s CEO and Founder, Natalie Fée said: “People are rightly shocked by the increase in plastic pollution caused during the pandemic and I really do welcome Wilko playing their part in trying to get the single-use masks already out there recycled. But this isn’t a silver bullet. It’s really just a drop in a very plastic polluted ocean. We are being flooded with single-use plastics and the only way to stop this flood is by turning off the taps. For masks, this means promoting the use of reusable masks wherever appropriate.”
She continued: “We are being asked to wear face coverings at the moment to keep everyone around us safe. But we can do this and protect the planet at the same time by choosing to use reusable masks – which also saves money.
“If you have a single-use mask already I encourage you to use it and then recycle it, but if you are considering buying a mask I urge you to buy a few reusable masks that you can use time and time again.”