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RRC Launches Disposable Mask Recycling Program

February 15, 2021

Toss your disposable mask in one of these bins as you leave campus.

Masks. They’re a staple of life these days.

While many of us choose reusable masks, disposable masks are being used by the million, either through preference or necessity.  And all of these masks amount to a staggering amount of waste. Stories like this and this bring the issue to light. At Red River College, we distribute more than 6,000 disposable masks every month. That’s why we’re excited to partner with Terracycle and bring a Disposable Mask Recycling program to Red River College.

So how does it work?

We’ve set up three disposable mask recycling boxes at the Notre Dame Campus. These boxes* are located in outdoor, high traffic areas. As students, staff and faculty leave our buildings they can doff (a fancy word for ‘take off’) and discard their masks to be recycled. The boxes accept all non-woven, disposable, plastic-based masks including 3-ply surgical, dust masks, KN95, and N95 masks. Paper or cloth masks or anything else isn’t allowed in the bin.

Mask Recycling locations:

South Parking Lot, by Commissionaires Booth

STTC Building, main entrance

Building J, north entrance

How Are Masks Recycled?

Once the box is full, it’s securely sealed and stored for 72 hours.  After that it’s trucked to a facility in New Jersey where masks are mechanically disassembled, sorted and baled based on the material composition. The metal from the nose piece is processed in New Jersey and smelted into new bar stock and metal sheeting. The polypropylene part of the mask is sent to Illinois where it’s crushed into a crumb-like consistency and used to make composite decking, shipping pallets and other products. And the elastane/ rubber portion of the band is also sent to Illinois where it’s ground into a fine mesh regrind and mixed with recycled plastics to give that ‘flexy’ property to finished products.

Once a year we’ll receive a Certificate of Destruction outlining the total number of shipments, and the total weight of recycled materials. Stay tuned to track our progress….

Working towards a Zero Waste Campus

We’re proud of our integrated waste and recycling program. From basic recycling, composting, e-waste, plastic bags, batteries, writing utensils, mattresses and more, we’ve got a variety of programs to divert materials from the landfill and give them another useful life. We’re happy to add disposable masks onto our list of recycled items.

*Shout out to our amazing carpenter Kevin for snow, rain and wind-proofing the recycling boxes with his custom creation.