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Used Masks and Gloves Should Not Be Recycled

As a country, we are using more disposable PPE right now more than ever before, which means those items end up in the trash. The pandemic has been a busy time for the solid waste and recycling industry.

“With people home, I think there’s a lot more cleaning and getting rid of stuff going on,” Phoenix Deputy Public Works Director Felipe Moreno said.

They’ve been collecting about 20 percent more tonnage lately than is normal for this time of year. Workers are managing about 850 extra truckloads of bulk pick-up, too. But here’s a warning for those who have a bunch of used masks, gloves, and other PPE to remove.

“It is not recyclable,” Moreno said. “So anything PPE-related should be going into the refuse container.” Hand sanitizer bottles and other containers can’t go in the blue bins either.

“If we have too much refuse or things that can damage that product go into the recycling stream, that material, or that truckload, potentially, has to then be landfilled,” Moreno said.

An even scarier problem happens when people try to toss leftover household cleaning supplies after a quarantine scrub-down.

“Things that mix together over the time of those loads can create kind of your own little chemistry experiment, so to speak, and that can be bad for the truck,” Moreno said.

It can be harmful for the drivers, too. Fortunately, none of them have been hurt in recent incidents where garbage trucks caught fire after hazardous materials combusted inside.

Though Public Works can’t pinpoint the chemical inside the truck that started the flames, they want people to know how dangerous tossing leftover cleaning liquid can be. Potential fires can damage the $300,000 trucks, and one incident rendered a whole sorting station full of recyclables useless after firefighters had to spray the whole lot down.

While the city’s regular hazardous waste pick-up is on pause, there are still drop-off locations where you can take leftover cleaning liquids.

 


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