How to Recycle and Repurpose your old fabric face masks
With vaccination processes underway, we are all eager discard our masks and show off our smiles once again. As thrilling as this is, it is vital to look at how we will go about discarding our old masks. (and note: with variations of the virus still circulating you should definitely keep a couple of them in the back of your drawer just in case!)
The need for masks worldwide has generated an environmental crisis with trillions of seemingly unrecyclable masks circulating around the globe. Here at No Kill, this has been a popular topic of conversation as we search for alternative, sustainable solutions to ‘dumping’ masks. We have compiled a list of our favorite methods for mask disposals from creative DIYs to exciting recycling campaigns.
UsE your old masks as clothing patches
An old cloth mask can serve as the perfect piece of fabric to mend your favorite pair of jeans. Even if your jeans are not in need of mending, patchwork is a fun way to spice up any outfit.
Upcycling via textile companies
The No Kill team is not alone looking for sustainable options and many textile companies have come up with ways to upcycle both cloth and disposable masks. Clarisse Merlet’s company, FabBRICK, turns textile waste into a sustainable building material. The French company has begun to collect and incorporate cloth masks into other forms of textile waste, creating everything from lamps to wall partitions. Another French company, Plaxtil, upcycles disposal masks and produces a plastic fiber that can be used to create textiles. After placing collection bins at local supermarkets, Plaxtil recycled more than 70,000 masks in only two months! As for us back in the United States, unused masks are often accepted at local textile recycling centers – simply google to find one near you.
Art and ‘Trashion’
Artists and designers are also making efforts to upcycle old masks, using cloth and disposable masks in art installations, clothing and even furniture. ‘Trashion’, a term used for clothing articles created with repurposed ‘trash’, has heavily embraced the use of upcycled masks as textile material. Additionally, masks have been featured in many art pieces, serving as materials and motifs. Artists around the globe are incorporating masks into their work to reduce waste and monumentalize the pandemic. Designer, Hanuel Kim (Instagram is @neulkeem), uses about 1,500 disposable masks in the creation of his functional art pieces. Kim melts together discarded masks to create eco-friendly stools that he calls “Stack and Stack”. Kim has produced around 50 stools, with 1,500 masks per stool, he has repurposed at least 75,000 masks.
TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Boxes
Another initiative targeting mask disposal has been introduced by TerraCycle, an innovative recycling company based in the United States. TerraCycle offers paid recycling services for personal protective equipment (disposable masks, gloves, etc.) with their Zero Waste Box program.
Anyone who is interested can purchase the ‘box’ (price is based on collecting and recycling price), collect used masks, gloves, etc., and send the box back to TerraCycle using the prepaid shipping label. Once the mask-filled box is back at the TerraCycle facilities, it is sorted, recycled and used to produce new items.
Keep your favorites!!
Even though we are all eager to retire our masks, the current pandemic is far from over and experts have discussed the possibility of new pandemics in the future. In order to avoid overconsumption, it is crucial that any unused disposable masks and your favorite washable cloth masks do not go to waste.
Any effort, big or small, to repurpose a mask stops it from ending up in a landfill or even the ocean. Even as mask regulations become more relaxed, it is important that everyone stay safe! As we come out of the pandemic it is crucial to find ways to practice and promote sustainability.