The Impact of PPE & Waste Issues Due to COVID-19

Commercial Zone Blog

January 14, 2021

The Impact of PPE & Waste Issues Due to COVID-19

Almost a year since the start of global shutdowns and the requirement of face coverings, the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped almost every aspect of our lives. While the wearing of facemasks is effective in slowing the spread of the virus, there is growing concern that careless discarding of these face coverings and other PPE options such as gloves could have an impact on our environment.

facemask on ground

Now a year removed from the start of global shutdowns, at-home quarantines and face-covering requirements, it’s safe to say that the coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly every part of our lives and reinforced that the future is unpredictable. While wearing single-use, paper face masks is effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19, there is growing concern that careless discarding of used masks will have an impact on the environment around us and the future of our planet. Environmentalists fear we will soon run the risk of having more masks than jellyfish in our oceans.

So far, it’s is estimated that pandemic safety precautions have resulted in a monthly global usage of 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves, most of which are not recyclable. This is because most protective equipment is designed for single-use purposes to limit the risk of contamination. However, since PPE is effective in protecting people against the spread of viruses, it can be easy for many people to overlook the environmental impact of PPE disposal at these mass quantities.

A recent WWF report estimated that even if just 1% of masks are disposed of incorrectly, every month about 10 million masks will end up in our lakes, oceans and forests.

Nick Mallos, the senior director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program suggests, “As we navigate the ongoing pandemic, we are at a crossroads: continue with business as usual despite colossal upheavals to our plastic waste reality, or take this opportunity to change the plastics paradigm and build better, stronger waste systems. The choice is obvious.” It’s clear to see that in many ways, the pandemic has exposed just how critical it is to properly manage waste and recycling.

As we navigate this uncharted territory, organizations and individuals are transforming the ways in which they manage waste to make a lasting impact and to help avoid the risk of creating irreversible damages to the environment. Despite all the challenges presented by COVID-19, businesses can choose to look at the pandemic as an opportunity to prioritize a revamp of their waste systems. At the top of the list is developing processes and installing equipment for the proper disposal of waste related to COVID-19.

Because disposable face masks are made from paper, many incorrectly assume they are recyclable. They are not, along with disinfectant wipes, masks, other PPE and medical waste, which should always be kept out of recycling bins to avoid contamination.

As a reminder, always check with local recycling facilities to understand what materials they accept. Many materials may not be recyclable, so it’s important to know what you can and cannot put in those blue bins. Break down shipping and food boxes, rinse out containers and cans, keep them dry and clean, and put them in your facility’s recycling bin.

If the current trash cans and recycling containers at your organization are in need of replacement, Commercial Zone offers dual waste and recycling units, including the ArchTec Parkview Double. This waste and recycling solution is extremely durable, resistant to endure harsh outdoor conditions and can handle large volumes of waste. Another option is the EarthCraft DualStream, which is built with UV-resistant recycled plastic material and is available in different colors and finishes, making it easy to customize your solution. Dual units help make proper PPE disposal and recycling more convenient for everyone.

If organizations begin to recognize the harmful effects that improper disposal poses on the environment and start to take decisive action, there is hope that change can be made in an effort to create a more sustainable future.

To learn more about dual units or other waste and recycling solutions from Commercial Zone, contact us or call 1-800-782-7273.