Face mask floating in water

Council using recycled ocean plastic and face masks for litter collection

Forest of Dean District Council has announced that it is looking to utilise recycled NHS face masks and ocean plastic to make kit that can be used to collect litter.

The Community Builders’ Fund is funding the new equipment, with the council hoping to use the initiative to put the environment first in the future, whilst also increasing the awareness of a need to bring used items back into circulation.

Councillor Paul Hiett, Cabinet Member for Communities and Climate Emergency, said:

“Our environment is in crisis and as a society we need to step up our efforts to protect our plant and find ways that support a cleaner, greener future where people and wildlife can co-exist safely.

“It’s believed that each year eight million tonnes of plastic waste will enter our oceans. These plastics can entangle marine animals or be mistaken for food, both with devastating consequences. Over time plastics will also start to break down into much smaller micro plastics, invading fragile ecosystems, and even entering our own food chain. While pollution is a massive problem, we hope by supporting a process that enables more items to be rescued, recycled and ultimately reused, we’re making a positive contribution towards protecting nature and making a truly circular economy a reality.”

The materials will form the plastic components on litter grabbers, with the 100% recycled polypropylene being made in the UK and sourced either from the NHS or recovered ocean plastics. The hoops on the litter pickers, the part that is used to keep litter bags open, will also be made from fishing equipment and nets that have been recovered from the sea.

Community Safety Lead at Forest of Dean District Council, Damion Collins, added:

“At the height of the pandemic, around 58 million single-use face masks were being used every day in the UK, making them one of the most common forms of plastic pollution on land. Over time litter can migrate to the oceans and estimates put a figure of 1.5 million face masks now present in our seas.

“Investing in the litter pickers not only makes sense in terms of bringing more throwaway items back into use but the fact they’ve been made from face masks and ocean plastic is a fantastic way to start a conversation with the young people we talk to about litter, spark their curiosity, and show them the possibilities of what can be achieved if they recycle.”

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