With COVID-19 infection rates on the decline and more people receiving vaccinations, the end of the coronavirus pandemic feels like it's finally within reach. After more than a year of wearing face masks, the CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention) recently advised in May that "fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance." But for many, the idea of forgoing face masks entirely is both exciting and worrying all in one.
These protective coverings have been a part of our daily routines (and outfits!) for a long time now, so adjusting those habits will take some time to get used to. With 12 months of masks to dispose of, getting rid of them the most sustainable way is key to reducing waste. While some disposable face masks are made of mixed materials and can't be recycled, there are still ways to keep litter at bay. If you're looking for the best way to discard your unwanted masks, there are a handful of great options. Whether you're looking to recycle them or give them new life, here are the best ways you can do away with your COVID-19 face coverings (if and when you feel safe to do so).
How to Get Rid of Disposable Face Masks
If you don't want to throw a used face mask in the trash, try recycling it instead. TerraCycle, a private recycling business, recycles disposable face masks and other medical supplies through its Zero Waste Boxes. These boxes can recycle nonwoven disposable plastic-based masks including three-ply surgical, dust masks, KN95, and N95 masks. To send them your masks, just purchase a box, fill it up, then mail it back to the company using a prepaid label. The old masks are then made into new products like plastic lumber.
How to Get Rid of Cloth Masks
If you want to get rid of a reusable cloth mask as a textile, it can be disposed of with other clothing and textiles. Just make sure to clean it first, and you'll be good to go.
How to Reuse Old Face Masks
If you have any disposable masks that have not been used or reusable masks that you won't wear in the future, consider donating them or giving them away. You can also wash cloth face masks and reuse them again the next time you're sick.
How to Upcycle Old Face Masks
If you want to upcycle old face masks, there are ways to do that, too! You can either get crafty and cut up old cloth masks and turn them into towels, scarves, blankets, and more, or you can stitch them into clothes and socks. The options are endless, so feel free to get creative!