Tallinn recycling project has collected 250,000 facemasks

December 3, 2021
Disposable face mask on grass
Photo by Ivan Radic on Flickr
By Eko Diena in 

The global Covid-19 pandemic has brought many things along with it, including the use of a number of face masks unlike anything the world has seen before.

Clearly that's not a bad thing, the masks have been scientifically proven to slow the rate of infection and make a real difference to the amount of people who have ended up suffering, and possibly dying, from the corona virus. At the same time, this huge amount (I searched but couldn't find an accurate number) of disposable protective masks are ending up in all sorts of places that they shouldn't be, landfills at best, and streams and rivers far too frequently.

We should all be looking for better ways to dispose of our masks, and one recycling project in Tallinn has been doing just that. They have managed to collect over a quarter of a million used masks, in their collection bins, over the last five months.

Ester Öpik, coordinator of Tallinn coronavirus prevention measures, said: "We have seen in all locations of the collection bins that people eagerly dispose of face masks in the collection bins and that the bins do not contain much other waste."

"I am pleased to see that in schools especially, the use of the mask bins has been enthusiastic and effective. Although relatively small amounts of masks are accumulating in schools, the mask collection bins there really only contain disposed masks," Öpik continued.

The project has more than 100 collection bins situated in busy public spaces, sports centers, educational institutions, youth centers, social centers, vaccination points, polling stations and health care facilities, as well as in the capital city's administration offices.

The collected masks are recycled and become raw material for new plastic products.

The busiest places for people to dispose of their masks have been Tallinn zoo and the botanical gardens during the summer, and polling stations during the local elections on October 19th.

So far, since the start of the project five months ago Hyperon OÜ, which is responsible for emptying the bins, has gathered up more than 250,000 masks.

While that might sound like a reasonably high number, it needs to be taken in context. The population of Estonia is currently somewhere around 1.4 million people, which means they've only managed to recycle one make for every 5-6 people, and you can be absolutely sure that a lot more are ending up in the trash.

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