Disposable masks are not recyclable

May 20, 2020

Secretary for the Environment KS Wong said disposable face masks are not suitable for recycling.


Mr Wong made the statement when responding to questions from legislator Chung Kwok-pan at the Legislative Council today.


He said: “Since disposable face masks, including N95 masks and surgical masks, are made of composite materials of different kinds and metals which are difficult to be separated, they are not suitable for recycling or discarding in recycling bins to avoid contaminating other recyclables.


“The Government announced on May 5 that it will distribute reusable masks to citizens of Hong Kong. This can help reduce the use of disposable face masks.”


Based on the estimation that four to six million face masks are used in Hong Kong daily and each face mask weighs two to three grams, the face masks disposed of at landfills everyday will weigh some 10 to 15 tonnes.


Mr Wong emphasised that discarded masks in landfills will not spread diseases. He explained that E. coli is often used as a microbial indicator of pathogens. The lower its level, the less likely the pathogens will be present in the environment.


The Environment Bureau has taken leachate from landfills for E. coli testing and the test result showed there is no E. coli in the leachate. Therefore, the disposal of face masks in landfills will not result in the spreading of diseases.


Mr Wong added that used personal protective equipment should be properly discarded in lidded rubbish bins and must not be littered elsewhere to avoid causing health risks and adversely affecting the ecosystem.

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