Eco School Kew Beach takes extra steps to safely recycle personal protective equipment such as masks

Leslie Wilson, right, Eco-Chair of the Kew Beach Public School Parent Council, and Hyla Nagel, left, Kew Beach teacher, with a Terra Cycle Zero Waste Box for disposable masks.

By JESSE GAULT

Kew Beach Junior Public School has purchased TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box for personal protective equipment.

Now, instead of PPE, such as the N95 masks, used at the school polluting the surrounding environment or going into the garbage and being left in a landfill or burned in an incinerator, TerraCycle will accept the Zero Waste Box and process the used PPE into the raw materials to be used in creating other products.

This box is meant for the surrounding community. So that will likely be students and staff. Although, students at the school are largely using reusable masks. Depending on what is being recycled and the amount of it, Zero Waste Boxes can range in price from $55 to $522. The Disposable Masks – Zero Waste Box, used a the school, starts at $121 per box.

Some of the products that could be produced from the disposed PPE are “park benches, bike racks, shipping pallets, and recycling bins,” according to a TerraCycle press release.

“At Kew Beach we are always looking for ways to minimize our impact on the environment, and we have an amazing and supportive group of students and staff who are always open to incorporating eco-friendly habits into our daily life at school,” said Leslie Wilson, Kew Beach Parent Council Eco Chair.

COVID-19 poses a challenge to the process of lowering pollution at the school. Specifically, the non-reusable masks that are needed for safety during the pandemic have to be disposed of in some way, ethically or not.

“’TerraCycle boxes are the perfect solution for us – we now have a way to divert our waste from landfills and keep our school and community looking great, while not having to compromise on safety during COVID,’” said Wilson in a TerraCycle press release.

TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box works as follows:

First one orders the specific box for the relevant kind of waste. Second, the waste is collected using the provided box. Third, one sends the box, with its return label, to TerraCycle. Fourth, one orders another Zero Waste Box to keep the process of recycling anything going.

Kew Beach Junior Public School is a Gold Certified Eco School. This implies that the school has a culture of caring for the environment. The school’s Eco Team focusses on minimizing energy use, actively recycling, and preparing lunches that produce no garbage.

Having that gold certification as an Eco School means that “students, teachers, school administrators, custodians, and parents” work towards having an understanding of their environmental impact while also trying to minimize any harm done to the environment.

“Across the country, small businesses are stepping up to combat this plastic pollution (such as used PPE) through improved waste management and innovative recycling solutions,” said Mary Ellen Dowd, Communications Associate for TerraCycle.

 The purpose of TerraCycle is “Eliminating the Idea of Waste®.” There are things from people’s homes, educational institutions, and places of work, like factories, that are not thought of as recyclable. But TerraCycle is finding ways to recycle waste no matter what it’s form.

“Students and staff are very happy with it (the Zero Waste Box). Overall the feedback has been extremely positive, and we are ready to get another box from TerraCycle once our current box has been filled and sent for recycling,” said Wilson.


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