How to use disposable masks and respect the environment?
Since the start of the Covid-19 global pandemic, masks have become the essential workplace accessory to protect against the virus. The massive adoption of surgical disposable masks has also generated a strong concern about their impact on the environment.
For companies committed to environmental protection, the obligation to provide a disposable surgical mask to its employees can represent a real challenge in terms of waste management and Corporate responsibility. Fortunately, solutions exist.
It takes 450 years for a mask to decompose
Surgical disposable masks are made of plastic, elastane elastics and sometimes a metal bar. They can take up to 450 years to decompose and thus contribute to the increase in plastic-related pollution.
In a recent study, the UN predicts that in 2020, 75% of used masks will end up in landfills or floating in the sea
It is the weight in tons of waste from disposable masks generated daily in France according to Zero Waste France.
Protecting employees and the environment: the impossible equation?
As major users of masks to protect their employees, companies need therefore to include this new type of waste in their waste management process, and Corporate Social Responsibility commitments.
From waste to upcycling solutions
In 2020 Lyreco has been working on end-of-life and recycling alternatives for single-use masks, through the collection of used items and by re-thinking the composition of the mask itself in an unique and innovative way.
Collecting for better waste upcycling
Since December 2020, Lyreco has launched its mask collection container offer. The system consists of collecting from companies the single-use masks previously discarded by employees in containers made available to them in their workplace. These masks are then delivered to a recycling organization that disinfects and reduces them to flakes before reinjecting the raw materials into new products.
Today, 1,700 Lyreco containers are implemented in workplaces and receive employees' masks every day, before being collected by Lyreco delivery drivers for recycling. For now, the solution is available in France and is likely to be extended to other markets.
Mask collection - How does it work?
100% of the mask is recycled and is used in the manufacture of new products
The polypropylene contained in the blue part of the masks is used to manufacture new products made of recycled plastic.
The metal of the bar is sent to the metal industry.
The elastane of the elastics is incinerated to be used for public heating in hospitals.
Rethinking the composition of masks
What if we could make plastic harmless to nature thanks to a simple additive? This is the question that Lyreco has raised by experimenting an additive supplied by Biosphere that has the property of making plastic biodegradable. An innovative and particular approach that, if the test is successful, would allow Lyreco to offer its customers a 100% biodegradable mask while remaining 100% compliant with current safety standards.
Picture: Nasser Kahil, Lyreco QSS director, and masks supplier Adriano Damiani team who is doing the test with the Biosphere additive