To try and keep COVID masks out of Manitoba's parks and landfills, the government has teamed with international recycling operation TerraCycle to collect disposable masks from 15 park locations.
In a news release, Conservation and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard says "Mask use is critical for protection during the COVID-19 pandemic, but once a disposable mask is used, it becomes waste that should be treated differently than standard garbage or recyclables. We want Manitobans to remain safe and are committed to keeping our parks clean, while reducing the environmental impact of disposable masks."
Provincial parks have experienced an increase in attendance during the past year and this trend is expected to continue. With the encouragement of mask use, Manitoba's parks may see an increase in discarded masks.
Disposable masks will be collected using TerraCycle's Disposable Masks Zero Waste Boxes. Once the boxes are filled, the masks will be shipped to a TerraCycle sorting facility in Ontario and broken down into component materials. Metal from the masks is repurposed into new metal sheeting while the polypropylene-dominant mixture is converted into a raw material used in plastic lumber and composite decking applications. The elastic portion is ground into a fine mesh and mixed with recycled plastics as an additive to provide flexibility to other products.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges to the global community including worldwide spikes in plastic pollution caused by the improper disposal of single-use face masks," said Tom Szaky, CEO and founder, TerraCycle. "As a company, TerraCycle's mission has always been to 'Eliminate the Idea of Waste' and through the use of our Zero Waste Box program, we provide an easy solution to collect and recycle disposable masks, keeping them out of the landfill and from littering our natural spaces."
TerraCycle's Zero Waste Boxes are being distributed to:
o Cedar Bog trailhead, campground office and west beach shelter in Birds Hill Provincial Park;
o Spirit Sands trailhead and campground office in Spruce Woods Provincial Park;
o campground office in Winnipeg Beach Provincial Park;
o Pioneer Beach in Clearwater Provincial Park;
o Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park;
o Blue trailhead and campground office in St. Malo Provincial Park;
o Grand Beach town site and campground office in Grand Beach Provincial Park; and
o Falcon Beach town site, Falcon Lake Beach campground office and West Hawk Lake campground office in Whiteshell Provincial Park.
Manitobans can stay up to date with provincial parks news, activities and events by following Manitoba Parks on Facebook (www.facebook.com/MBGovParks) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/MBGovParks).