Wilko launches the UK high-street’s first face mask recycling scheme

The single-use face coverings are set to be recycled into sustainable building materials, furniture, and even PPE collection bins.

A sustainable single-use facemask recycling scheme is set to launch in 150 Wilko stores across the country from next month. The initiative means that customers will be able to bring their used disposable masks and safely place them in the collection bins at the front of the stores for recycling.

A rise in single-use PPE litter, due to the pandemic, has been a significant area of concern; with serious environmental effects of discarded masks becoming an unforeseen side-effect of Covid-19.

An estimated 129 billion face masks are used globally every single month. In an effort to reduce the harm caused by this worrying trend, the home and garden retailer has teamed up with ReWorked www.reworked.com and Scan2Recycle www.scan2recycle.com – launching an innovative scheme to recycle the single-use facemasks, titled #ReclaimTheMask.

Wilko CEO Jerome Saint Marc said: “Showing we care isn’t something we just do at Wilko, it’s one of our core values. We’re thrilled to partner with ReWorked to be the first on the high street to take positive action, recycling discarded face masks on behalf of our customers.

“The scheme is super simple for shoppers to safely recycle a product which is often unavoidably discarded as a result of us all taking steps to protect the health of everyone around us. What’s more, it also means we’re able to help hardworking families, local communities and other businesses by turning something that we’re simply throwing away into a useful and sustainable product that can have a genuinely positive impact.”

The campaign brings new hope for the mountains of waste PPE reportedly found washing up on our beaches, polluting our waterways & scattered along our streets.

According to reports in the national media, scientific research suggests there are now more disposable face masks in the world’s oceans than jellyfish. Providing the public with a safe place to dispose of and recycle masks should help to combat this issue and have a positive impact on the environment.

The facemask material, made primarily from PP (polypropylene), is sent to Yorkshire-based recycling partners ReWorked for processing. After a minimum 72-hour quarantine period, the PPE is washed and shredded into 5mm pieces, before being mixed with other waste plastic to a specific recipe.

The shredded plastic mixture is heated to over 200 degrees Centigrade and pressed into durable boards. The boards go on to become building materials, furniture and even bins to collect more waste plastic.

ReWorked marketing manager Izzie Glazzard said: “It’s brilliant to be working with Wilko to tackle such an important and current issue. Their drive to provide this innovative service to their customers has been admirable.

“The scheme tackles a waste issue nobody had even considered until recently. Initiatives like these can drastically reduce the amount of harmful plastic waste entering our streets, parks and oceans, affecting the health of our planet.”

The high-street first campaign launches in 150 participating Wilko stores on April 1 and will run for three months.