The Royal Cornwall Hospital situated in Truro wants to try and give disposable masks a new purpose after they’ve been used. They are now turning them into litter-pickers which they then provide to the 332 schools in Cornwall.
Tanya Cowing from Sterile Services at the Royal Cornwall Hospital explains to BBC how they transform the masks into litter-pickers:
“Obviously,” she says, “we need to remove the ear straps and the wire that sits over your nose. Then that all gets melted down and that makes one of the big blocks which then gets taken away and grounded down into plastic granules and repurposed.”
To make one litter-picker, 45 masks are required. Roz Davies says they usually use 300 masks a day, but that number increased to 10000 masks a day during the pandemic.
This project does more than turn masks into useful devices; it also gives the younger generation in Cornwall a chance to create new and sustainable habits. It also helps them develop environmental awareness that’ll hopefully follow them through life.
One student explained to BBC that picking up trash with these special litter-pickers “made [her] feel happier because we were then saving more animals from getting stuff tangled in their insides.”
In the future, the hospitals hope to not use disposable masks at all.
“We all want to get to reusable [surgical masks],” says Davies. “That’s the end result, but the barriers are there for a very good reason and we must stick with them to keep our staff and patients safe… until then, at least [the litter-picker initiative] repurposes what we’ve got.”
Hopefully, projects like this that both make a difference and inspire young people to care about our planet will help the future come sooner.