TerraCycle, which specialises in hard-to-recycle waste, will be distributing ‘Zero Waste Boxes’ to O2 stores, to ensure that PPE is recycled safely.
Once full, the Zero Waste Box will be sealed and sent back to TerraCycle for recycling, where TerraCycle says the PPE will be aggregated before being cleaned, shredded and melted into pellets.
TerraCycle added that the pellets can then be remoulded and used to make new products.
O2 said that a surge of additional PPE waste is expected following the reopening of more non-essential retail stores in the coming weeks.
On TerraCycle’s website, a large box for PPE equipment, which would hold around 3000 individual pieces of PPE, costs £304.
Stephen Clarke, head of communications at TerraCycle Europe said: “The exponential growth in plastic PPE could be very costly for the planet.
“That’s why we’re proud to be taking a leadership role with O2 in safely and responsibly recycling the PPE used across their retail estate in the UK. We would encourage more retailers to work with us and to follow the example O2 is setting.”
“We’re proud to be taking a leadership role with O2 in safely and responsibly recycling the PPE used across their retail estate in the UK”
Tracey Herald, head of partnerships & social impact at O2 added: “With billions of items of PPE now in circulation, it’s easy to see why environment and conservation experts are sounding the alarm. That’s why we’re delighted to announce our partnership with TerraCycle, which will ensure the PPE keeping our customers and employees safe in stores is responsibly recycled.
“This new scheme will help minimise our impact on the planet and is an example of the many steps O2 is taking in its journey to becoming a net-zero business by 2025.”
The partnership follows concerns in the waste industry that PPE is contaminating waste streams and putting refuse collectors and other key workers at risk.
In April, The Confederation of Paper Industries said there were ‘disturbing’ reports of PPE in waste streams, which is putting workers at risk (see letsrecycle.com story).
The body added that PPE should be treated in the same way as domestic medical waste such as properly contained sharps and hygiene products such as nappies.
Defra additionally released guidance on how to treat any potentially infectious waste, such as PPE, saying that it needs to be double bagged and stored for 72 hours before being put out for collection.