Watch CBS News

Hospital Melting Masks To Help Deal With Mountain Of Waste

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It's estimated 129 billion single-use face masks are used every month around the world, and millions of plastic ones are ending up in the trash.

Royal Cornwall Hospital in England was using about 300 a day before the pandemic, mostly in operating rooms.

"And then COVID struck and that increased to 10,000 a day," said Roz Davies with Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust.

To deal with the mountain of waste, they started using a machine to melt the masks. Workers say they remove the ear straps and wire that sits over your nose before melting the masks in the machine that reaches nearly 600 degrees

"Basically, it's just like a giant oven, you know, it melts it all down and that makes one of the big blocks which then gets taken away and ground down into plastic granules and repurposed," said Tanya Cowling with Royal Cornwall Hospital.

That material is turned into all sorts of things, like litter grabbers. It takes about 45 masks to make a grabber.

A group of kids in England has been picking up trash with the grabbers made from the recycled masks.

"You can pick up a mask with these, that are made out of masks and I just think it's really cool," one child said.

The recycling ovens are used at five British hospitals, but the National Health Service hopes to eventually roll them out across the country.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.