Can Disposable Masks Be Recycled?

Recycling is one of the most important things we can collectively do to maintain the health of our planet and those living on it. So as a manufacturer it's not surprising that I'm frequently asked about recycling PPE.

Because sustainability is an important part of Armbrust’s mission, the company continually finds ways to cut down on the environmental impact of surgical mask manufacturing wherever possible. During a pandemic, however, the first priority should remain on mask options that provide the best protection and minimize the spread of viruses. (Cloth masks, while reusable, don’t offer nearly as much protection as a surgical mask.)

But can surgical masks be recycled?

Yes and no. The materials used to give surgical masks superior filtration protection as of now cannot be recycled and remain as effective as new material. However, that doesn't mean that material can't be recycled into other non-mask items. 

While making surgical mask manufacture more environmentally friendly isn’t terribly feasible at the moment, it is a goal for Armbrust as it looks into the future. The last thing the earth needs is another floating island of plastic. Check out the video embedded above for more details.

Where are we at in terms of being able to recycle stuff?

We are actually working on this. I think sustainability is probably the most important feature of this new mask culture.

On one hand, you have cloth masks that just do not offer the same level of
protection, so people are losing their lives because they'd rather use something that's reusable.

On the other end, we have plastic masks that are essentially hurting our future. For example, the melt blown, that middle part of your mask that actually protects you; and the better the melt blown, the higher bacterial or particulate filtration. So ours is tested at the absolute heights 99 [percent] to get that it has to be what's called virgin melt blown. That means it's never been used, never been recycled.

So because of that, we don't know if there's a way to recycle melt blown into new melt blown, but we do know that we can recycle it into other things.

So it sounds like we're at the beginning of a much bigger much more important journey about what happens to all these masks after they, you know, save humanity?

Yeah, that's that's right. I mean, keep in mind this was a problem for a very long time. People just didn't realize that it was such a problem. We're talking billions of masks consumed every year by circuits. We don't need more plastic islands in the middle of the of the ocean.

And I really think there is, if you give people especially in the United States the
option and the place to recycle I think they'll do it.