450 years for self-destruction, is recycling possible?

The mask has appeared in the daily waste of the French. And the question of its management in terms of waste and, in particular, recycling is at the center of the debates. Savoy MP Vincent Rolland rightly recalled Sunday at Le Dauphiné Libéré “that a mask takes 450 years to destroy itself.” But why is recycling them so complicated?

Vincent Rolland is the co-signatory of a bill presented in mid-September by Josiane Corneloup, Les Républicains de Saône-et-Loire MP, to create a recycling sector. Above all, they remind us that the use of trademarks in France is not about to cease, so it would be time to think about how to reuse them.

A local recycling initiative

Disposable masks are made from neopropylene, a petroleum derivative. In addition, when classifying, all its components must be divided, such as the metal bar or the rubbers that are used to hold it. In addition, for their use to combat the coronavirus pandemic in particular, they must first be decontaminated before trying to recycle them, all these steps that make their treatment more complicated.

Except Plaxtile. This company from Châtellerault, in Vienne, is the only one in France today that offers recycling of disposable masks locally. 50 collection points have been installed in the town. The masks remain confined in these boxes for 4 days. Then, once the metal bar is removed by hand, the masks are ground up and sanitized under a UV machine before being mixed with other plastics to make hangers, student geometry kits, or visors.

Better to “reduce waste at source”

A local initiative that does not fully satisfy the NGO Zero Waste. “Our policy is to minimize the number of waste at source,” explains Juliette Franquet, director of the French sector. Above all, the extension of this system to the national level would contribute to pollution. “It would not be logical for trucks to cross France carrying thousands of masks to take them to factories to be recycled,” he analyzes.

“There should be better information on reusable masks”

The organization was auditioned by the National Assembly as part of a flash mission on treating single-use masks. “We believe that we must rethink the consumption of masks to reduce waste. The problem goes beyond recycling, especially since investing in a recycling sector seems complex. We should better inform about reusable masks and reassure the French about the fact that that they do not risk putting them on “, he declares,” the State could be exemplary and distribute reusable masks to its administration instead of communicating the fact of properly disposing of the masks for their sole use in the garbage “, he adds.

The Eta Beta experience in Italy

Zero Waste is above all a European NGO. Juliette Franquet defends reusable masks evoking the experience of the Beta State in Italy. “The city has experimented with a great system for washing reusable masks and it was a success.” In fact, today this system is used to wash a company of 800 employees in Bologna, but it is a project that needs funds to perpetuate itself.

“Recycling is not infinite”

In addition, the director of the NGO reminds that it is also an issue that will impact in the future. “You have to ask yourself: what company do you want in ten years?” she asks. Also remember that even in recycling there is contamination. “Recycling is not infinite. For the manufacture of a mask, it will be necessary to add raw material, therefore plastic, to the recycled mask”, he explains before adding, “that all that is recyclable is not necessarily recycled, due to too much complication technical or lack of profitability ”.

Whichever solution is favored by public institutions, it is time to question the impact of this object in the future. As a reminder, if a person wears two disposable masks a day, this represents around 400 tons of plastic waste produced daily.