‘Alarming’ levels of disposable masks could lead to recycling nightmare
PUBLISHED: 19:00 10 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:36 11 August 2020
An Ipswich environmental campaigner has spoken out amid concerns face masks and gloves are contaminating recycling bins.
Local litter-picker Jason Alexander, founder of UK Rubbish Walks, has reminded people in the town that although most personal protective equipment (PPE) is made of plastic – the materials used to manufacture them are not recyclable and disposing them in a blue bin could see the entire container sent to landfill.
His warning comes after he has also come across an alarming rise in the number of masks and gloves found littered in the town’s streets – with the campaigner having picked up more than 500 pieces of PPE off the floor in just 11 days.
Mr Alexander said: “I’m seen an increasing amount of PPE litter lying about everywhere – whether that’s on the beach, by a river or on the street.
“The problem is, I’m also seeing an increasing amount put in recycling bins. If you put it in a recycling bin, it contaminates it – and everything else is unlikely to be recycled.”
Mr Alexander said he has also been alarmed by the amount of single-use PPE available in shops, rather than reusable textile-based alternatives.
He said: “I will never understand the need to wear disposable masks, they are not recyclable and pose a serious risk to our wildlife – but more than that, they are so much more expensive.
“You can buy two or three washable masks for the same price as a big box of disposable ones, but you get so much more use out of them. Disposable masks just aren’t a sensible option for normal people.
“Another big thing is the amount of wet wipes I am finding, with people using baby wipes to clean down surfaces or wash their hands when they don’t even kill the virus.
“It is absolutely disgusting.”
An Ipswich Borough Council spokeswoman said the council will not collect recycling bins containing PPE.
She said: “PPE is not recyclable. To protect other residents, bin crews and the environment it is important that people in Ipswich and across Suffolk follow advice and dispose of PPE correctly.
“All used face masks and gloves should be disposed of in your household rubbish bin, or a litter bin if you’re outside.
“Recycling bins containing any non-recyclable items, including PPE, will not be emptied. Quality control at Suffolk’s Materials Recycling Facility is strict, therefore it is important that recycling bins are used correctly to reduce contamination.”
James Mallinder, cabinet member for the environment at East Suffolk Council, said: “Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as disposable face masks and gloves cannot be recycled in Suffolk and so need to be placed in the general household waste bin at home or in a litter bin when out and about.
“Disposable PPE should not be put into recycling bins. We would encourage people to use reusable face coverings if possible.
“We would urge people to dispose of all forms of waste correctly, either in a litter bin or by taking rubbish home.
“Disposable PPE and other rubbish should not be left beside litter bins as although well-intentioned, this is still a form of littering.
“Specific guidance on waste disposal is available at gov.uk for anyone who is self-isolating or who has coronavirus symptoms.”
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