No, you can’t recycle used masks and gloves.
Five months after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re finally at a point where it’s a little bit easier to find personal protective equipment (PPE) like disposable masks and gloves in stock. Thank goodness for that! But while the acquisition of these goods is no longer a huge problem, have you ever considered how you should dispose of them? Here’s everything you need to know about getting rid of your PPE.
No! PPE cannot be recycled. “Many types of PPE are flimsy or flexible in design—think gloves and masks—and can clog sorting equipment at the recycling center, making it difficult to sort the right stuff,” says Jeremy Walters, sustainability ambassador and head of community relations for recycling and waste company Republic Services. “The other concern with used PPE is for the health and welfare of workers at the recycling centers that are sorting through the recyclables.”
In fact, prior to the pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics deemed recycling and waste collection the fifth most dangerous career in the United States, based on the annual number of fatal incidents. Now with the pandemic, workers in the field are more exposed to risks than ever.
Here’s exactly what PPE and associated materials cannot be recycled:
- Disposable masks
- Disinfecting wipes
- Paper towels, napkins, and tissues
- Medical equipment and supplies
If you’re not thrilled about the ecological impact of single-use PPE, consider buying reusable options, which are far more sustainable. With those items, you’ll want to be sure you are sanitizing them regularly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest you wash your reusable mask after every use.
While PPE belongs in the trash, you shouldn’t just haphazardly toss your masks and gloves in the bin. The same issue facing workers sorting recyclables also faces waste workers—you don’t want your dirty PPE to get anyone sick. So when you throw away PPE and associated goods like paper towels or tissues, make sure you’re placing items in a garbage bag that can be sealed, lest you end up with used PPE falling out and potentially spreading your germs to others.
While PPE itself can’t be recycled, there’s plenty else that can and should be. “Hand sanitizer, liquid disinfectants, disinfectant wipes, and other cleaning or sanitizing products often come in packaging that is great for recycling,” says Walters. “Rigid plastic bottles, jugs, and tubs are excellent candidates. Just be sure your plastic containers are empty, clean, and dry before tossing them in your recycling bin.”
In general, clean plastic, glass, metal, and paper goods can be recycled, but you should check with your city or town to learn about its specific protocols for recycling, as rules do vary by location. “Right now, there is a critical need for raw materials in the manufacturing supply chain, especially paper and cardboard,” Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. “Business closures and limited operations means less recycled material for American manufactures, and we all must do our part to recycle more and recycle right to fill this immediate need.”
Please note that this Scottsdale Real Estate Blog is for informational purposes and not intended to take the place of a licensed Scottsdale Real Estate Agent. The Szabo Group offers first-class real estate services to clients in the Scottsdale Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area in the buying and selling of Luxury homes in Arizona. Award-winning Realtors and Re/MAX top producers and best real estate agent for Luxury Homes in Scottsdale, The Szabo group delivers experience, knowledge, dedication and proven results. Contact Joe Szabo at 480.688.2020, info@ScottsdaleRealEstateTeam.com or visit www.scottsdalerealestateteam.com to find out more about Scottsdale Homes for Sale and Estates for Sale in Scottsdale and to search the Scottsdale MLS for Scottsdale Home Listings.