·       Recycling social enterprise Waterhaul and Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust launch the initiative on Earth Day (April 22)

·       The ‘Retask the Mask’ campaign aims to inspire a global clean-up by recycling face masks into litter pickers

·       129 billion single-use plastic facemasks are used every month worldwide

·       Kickstarter campaign has been launched to drive funding

The UK’s first campaign to recycle single-use facemasks into a new ‘green’ product has been launched.

Cornwall social enterprise Waterhaul is leading the ‘Retask the Mask’ campaign to combat the environmental impact of face masks and has chosen Earth Day (April 22) to begin the initiative.

Statistics reveal 58 million masks are used a day in the UK, making them one of the most common forms of plastic pollution, with an estimated 1.5 billion masks already entering the ocean. As mask usage is still required as a preventative measure in the spread of Covid-19, these figures are expected to grow, causing lasting damage.

Waterhaul, which specialises in recycling plastic waste and fishing nets from the ocean into functional products, has trialled the project with Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust. The recycling of masks will save the Trust from having to pay £550 per ton to incinerate the masks.

Instead, Waterhaul will pay for each plastic block created by the NHS Trust from melting down the masks using a dedicated onsite machine. Waterhaul will use these plastic blocks to create litter pickers. Full-scale manufacturing of the recycled litter picker will be done in the UK and is set to begin in May.

“This new wave of plastic PPE pollution is a very real threat,” said Harry Dennis, CEO at Waterhaul.

“We’re aiming to turn this problem into part of the solution. By working with the NHS Trust we can intercept this plastic at the source before it heads to landfill and create a useful product that will enable us to collectively tackle the masks which have already escaped into the environment.”

Roz Davies, general manager at The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, added: “The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust has been clear that its vision is to create a circular economy and tackle the growing challenges of single use PPE. 

“It’s fantastic news for our staff, patients and visitors to know that we can create a positive outcome from our waste – and that it will go on to make even further positive impact in the form of litter pickers.”

Waterhaul is aiming to be part of a wider waste solution and are launching ‘Retask the Mask’ to coincide with Earth Day and raise awareness of the extreme levels of pollution and potential harm to the environment caused by discarded face masks.

More information about the campaign, including how to support the project’s Kickstarter, are available at https://www.retaskthemask.com