NLWA urges switch to reusable facemasks

People have been urged to switch to reusable facemasks after research for the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) showed 102 million single-use facemasks are thrown away in the UK each week.

To tackle the problem, the NLWA launched a campaign today (15 December) to encourage the nation to switch to reusable facemasks.

NLWA chair Councillor Clyde Loakes said: “The progress we’ve all made in reducing our reliance on single-use plastics is at risk of being undone during the pandemic, and disposable facemasks are a major culprit.

“They are not made of paper, they are not recyclable and whether they are binned or littered they will damage the environment.

“Today we are urging people to keep doing their bit to help tackle the climate emergency by switching to reusable masks, which offer just as much protection as disposables.”

To support the campaign to promote reusable options, the NLWA is working with not-for-profit social enterprise Fashion Enter to create more than 1,000 reusable facemasks. These will be distributed in the run up to Christmas via food banks and other support services across north London.

In November, the recycling minister Rebecca Pow backed the use of reusable face coverings, away from healthcare and PPE uses, to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Contamination

The NLWA’s poll also found that nearly one in five people (18%) wrongly thinks disposable masks should go in the recycling bin, which is resulting in increased contamination issues at recycling facilities.

Steve Oulds, national commercial manager at Biffa Waste Services, said: “Contamination is one of the biggest challenges we face, and we are now seeing many disposable facemasks coming through our facility every day.

“Where facemasks are found in the load, it can result in the entire load being rejected and losing otherwise perfectly good recyclables.”

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