From waste into resource

By recycling single-use face masks into litter pickers, the new “Retask the Mask” campaign aims to inspire a global clean-up.

A partnership between the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust and the Cornwall-based social enterprise Waterhaul has led to the launch of a new UK recycling initiative. Dubbed “Retask the Mask”, the new campaign is working to recycle single-use face masks into waste-collection equipment.

“This new wave of plastic PPE pollution is a very real threat,” explains Harry Dennis, CEO at Waterhaul.

“By working with the RCHT, we can intercept this plastic at the source before it’s disposed of. From this, we can create a useful product that will enable us to collectively tackle the masks which have already escaped into the environment.”

A recycled ‘Retask the Mask’ litter picker surrounded by single-use face masks.

Waterhaul has been recycling ocean plastic into new functional products for two and half years. Now, they’ve set out to apply their experience to this new plastic problem. Partnering with the RCHT, the teams are working to flip the problem on its head, turning waste hospital face masks into the tools needed to tackle the same concern.

“Using a machine on site at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, the masks are melted down into blocks, sterilising the material”, Harry continues. “Waterhaul then purchase this waste material for recycling and transform it into the litter pickers. From waste, into resource!”

Masks are heat treated by the Sterile Services department of Royal Cornwall Hospital. The plastic is heated to high temperatures multiple times; first to make the blocks, then within the recycling process, and also whilst injection-moulding the parts.

Roz Davies, Care Group Manager and Sustainability Champion at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, adds:

“Saving population health and finding sustainable alternatives to the way we work has been a key consideration for the RCHT. We’ve been very clear in our vision to create a circular economy and tackle the growing challenges of single use PPE.”

“The new campaign is fantastic news for our colleagues, patients and visitors,” Roz concludes. “Knowing that we can create a positive outcome from our waste, and that this in turn will go on to make even further positive impact in the form of the litter pickers, is excellent for both our community and our environment.”

More information about the campaign is available at https://www.retaskthemask.com

Added on 14 May 2021, in News - Trust Improvement

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