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Mask recycling on the University of Arizona campus with sustainability efforts

Initiative helps with campus sustainability efforts
Mask recycling box at  University of Arizona
Posted at 6:00 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 20:00:55-05

TUCSON, Ariz.(KGUN) — The University of Arizona is looking at ways to keep the campus greener by using a mask recycling system for students and staff. Last fall the university started a mask recycling system to keep the campus clean and green. Campus Recreation Director Troy Vaughn says 8 special bins are placed at the main and north recreation centers and the bear down gym for collection. When the bins are filled, they’re shipped to PPE recycler Terracycle for processing. Vaughn says finding a company to recycle used masks was difficult.

"We’re keeping thousands of masks out of landfills. I was walking in and one of my employees came up to me and said Troy I picked up 7 masks on the way in from the parking lot. We had a lot of excitement on campus with people saying this is great,” Vaughn said.

Campus recreation and student government joined forces to make it happen. Thousands of masks have been handed out to students and staff since last fall.

"We noticed very early on that students were coming to us saying hey we’re seeing all of these masks being used what's up with that and can we recycle them. Literally we’re up to around 180,000 masks that we have distributed since Labor Day in the fall at campus recreation facilities,” Vaughn said.

UArizona paid $1,600 to process the used PPE. The recreation center and student government are both hoping to get new sustainability funding in the future to cover the cost.

"Any little thing that we can do to make a dent into what’s going into landfills is certainly a plus even if we have to pay a little bit for it,” Vaughn said.

According to Terracycle the recycled materials are repurposed to make patio furniture, shipping pallets, storage containers and more. The company has recycled over 110 tons of PPE waste since the start of the pandemic.

“The students have been incredibly grateful on campus that we have discussed this with. It’s a little cost that goes a long way for our students and a long way for sustainability on campus,” Vaughn said.