Recycling masks on U of A campus contributes to sustainability efforts


TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) – The University of Arizona is looking at ways to keep the campus greener by using a mask recycling system for students and staff. Last fall, the university launched a mask recycling system to keep the campus clean and green. Campus recreation director Troy Vaughn says 8 special bins are being placed in the main and north recreation centers and in the gymnasium for collection. When the bins are full, they are shipped to the Terracycle PPE recycler for processing. Vaughn says it was difficult to find a company to recycle used masks.

“We keep thousands of masks out of the landfills. I was walking in and one of my employees came up to me and said Troy I picked up 7 masks on the way back from the parking lot. We had a lot of excitement on the campus with people saying it’s great,” Vaughn said.

Campus recreation and student government have joined forces to make it happen. Thousands of masks have been distributed to students and staff since last fall.

“We noticed early on that students were coming to us saying hey we see all these masks being used, what’s going on with that and can we recycle them. Literally we’re down to about 180,000 masks that we have been handing out since Labor Day in the fall at campus recreation facilities,” Vaughn said.

Arizona paid $1,600 to treat the used PPE. Both the recreation center and the student government hope to secure new sustainable funding in the future to cover the costs.

“Any little thing we can do to make a dent in what’s going to landfills is definitely a plus, even if we have to pay a little for it,” Vaughn said.

According to Terracycle, recycled materials are reused to make patio furniture, shipping pallets, storage containers and more. The company has recycled more than 110 tonnes of PPE waste since the start of the pandemic.

“Students have been incredibly grateful on campus who we’ve discussed this with. It’s a small cost that goes a long way for our students and a long way for sustainability on campus,” Vaughn said.





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