Tackling the mass mask problem

As COVID-19 restrictions ease in WA, a WA council is offering residents a chance to correctly recycle disposable face masks.

The City of South Perth has partnered with TerraCycle to provide Zero Waste mask recycling bins.

According to the council, masks with polypropylene, polyethylene and vinyl can take up to 450 years to decompose.

The Zero Waste collection box at City of South Perth Civic Centre. Photo: Elliahn Blenkinsop.

TerraCycle provides mask bins which recycle non-woven disposable plastic-based masks such as three-ply surgical masks, dust masks, KN95 and N95 masks.

City of South Perth waste and fleet coordinator Dave Beresford says masks are a new waste stream which cannot simply be recycled through yellow lid bins.

TerraCycle takes apart the masks’ plastic and steel. The only part of the mask which is non-recyclable is the rubber straps; which are recommended to be removed before placed in the Zero Waste box.

TerraCycle spokesperson Lisa Green told 6PR the masks are manually sorted, shredded and the metals and plastics are smelted. Then the plastics are made into pellets which can be used for other purposes.

Ms Green told 6PR a wide variety of businesses were adopting this solution, from John Curtin College of the Arts to Perth Airport, mostly due to individual employees expressing concern for the environment.

WA Recycling correction officer Shi Zong Wong had not heard about the initiative or of other councils offering this service, and says it is important for more people and businesses to roll out more mask bins.

“It’s all about how good they actually roll this out and the campaign they do, but its also personal,” he says

“Even if they have all these recycling facilities and equipment, you need people to use them.”

City of South Perth Civic Centre. Photo: Elliahn Blenkinsop.

Mask bins are located at the Civic Centre and the City of South Perth Recycling Centre.

Mr Beresford says the bins will remain in place until they are no longer being filled, or until mandates are brought back.

“We will just have them in place until we don’t get anymore masks,” he says.

“We have two here currently and we’ve got another two on order so if we don’t use the other two then we wont be getting anymore, unless the mask mandate is brought back again.”

Categories: General