SFU brings Ontario mask recycling program to campuses

12 cardboard recycling receptacles can be found throughout all three campuses

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tall white cardboard box in the foreground
Recycled masks are repurposed into disposable isolation gowns and surgical equipment. PHOTO: Krystal Chan / The Peak

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer

SFU Facilities introduced a single-use mask recycling program to all three SFU campuses in February. According to SFU News, in an effort to reduce waste from single-use masks, 12 cardboard receptacles are available at all main entrances: 

SFU Burnaby: 3000 levels of the Bennett Library and the Maggie Benston Centre, AQ near the Saywell Hall atrium, and Blusson Hall at the bus loop

SFU Surrey: main entrances to campus buildings and Fraser Library

SFU Vancouver: each of the main buildings (Harbour Centre, Segal Building, Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, and Goldcorp Centre for the Arts)

The initiative is operated by LifeCycle Revive, a personal protective equipmenft (PPE) waste collection and recycling program operating out of Brantford, Ontario. They aim to form a circular lifecycle of PPE by making sterilized PPE waste into pellets. 

These pellets will then be used to “create non-woven textile for masks and disposable isolation gowns, and injection-molded items used in healthcare,” such as beakers or surgical equipment. The PPE created from the pellets is also recyclable, facilitating a circular product lifecycle to previously single-use products.

The Peak reached out to Facilities Services and SFU Sustainability but did not receive a response by publication deadline.

SFU Facilities adopted this program based on a discussion in Fall 2021 between leadership from all three campuses. Although the program has only seen a “moderate uptake” so far, SFU News reported Facilities is hopeful more masks will be recycled as more students return to campus. 

“The diversion of these products from landfill and the fact that they can be recycled into many other materials is a win for the campus and the environment,” said SFU Surrey facilities associate director Mike Devolin to SFU News. 

Science Daily reported about 129 billion face masks are discarded each month globally which is about three million per minute. As most single-use masks are made of plastic microfibres, this has become an increased concern of environmental scientists throughout COVID-19. Annually, LifeCycle Revive reduces 6.556 tons of CO2 and diverts over 12 million pounds of single-use plastic from landfills.

“Until we have PPE materials made of biodegradable materials, this is the very best alternative,” SFU Sustainability executive director Candace Le Roy told SFU News. “Recycling and upcycling not only reduces waste but decreases the energy and materials required for new products which also reduces our impact on climate change contributing to our net-zero goals.”