WINNIPEG - Red River College has launched a program to turn the 6,000 disposable masks they distribute every month into new items like shipping pallets.
While many students and staff choose reusable masks, the school says, with millions of disposable masks being used, either through preference or necessity, they wanted to develop a way to sustainably manage the staggering amount of waste they can create. They say that’s why they partnered with New Jersey-based Terracycle to develop a disposable mask recycling program at the college.
Organizers say they set up three disposable mask recycling bins at their Notre Dame Campus at outdoor, high traffic locations, so that students and staff can discard them after taking them off as they leave for the day. The program accepts all non-woven, disposable, plastic-based masks, including dust masks, KN95, and N95, surgical, and three-ply masks. Paper and cloth masks aren’t accepted.
When a box is full, it’s actually quarantined for 72 hours, then sent by the truck load to the New Jersey facility. That’s where the masks are disassembled, sorted, and baled depending on the material. Any metal from nose pieces is melted down into bars and sheeting. Polypropylene in the masks is sent to Illinois, where it’s turned into products like shipping pallets and composite boards. Any elastic material is also sent from New Jersey to Illinois to be recycled.
The college hopes to have the mask recycling efforts join others that focus on things like takeout containers and gloves in diverting them from becoming litter or ending up in a landfill.