The arrival of COVID-19 has caused a crisis beyond the pandemic: an epidemic of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) in our environment. A recent UN study estimated that about 75 percent of masks and other PPE ultimately end up in landfills, or worse, bodies of water.

McGill University professor of chemistry Dr. Audrey Moores says that in Canada, it’s possible the number is even higher than that. “We know that of all the plastics that are generated only nine percent is being recycled in Canada, so this means that most of the rest is actually landfill, so it’s about 80 percent,” she said. “This is the same thing that happens to any piece of garbage in Canada,” she said, adding that the vast majority do ultimately wind up in landfills, and not rivers or lakes.

Now, the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent is trying a new way to keep PPE out of the trash. New recycling boxes, installed in local municipal buildings, give locals a sustainable way to discard masks and gloves. Borough Mayor Alan DeSousa told Global News the program was originally just for city employees, who he says use about 2,000 masks a week in Saint-Laurent alone. He deemed it a fairly low-tech solution to a very 2020 problem, adding, “we’re just glad that we found a solution to a problem that everyone is facing!”

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Author: Benson Cook, Global News
Image: Global News