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Taiwan plans to upcycle used masks

Most masks are made from more than one material, making recycling harder

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A woman shows her face mask with a rabbit design and an auspicious Chinese character to help curb the spread of the coronavirus as she visits a temple...

A woman shows her face mask with a rabbit design and an auspicious Chinese character to help curb the spread of the coronavirus as she visits a temple...

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan may start a trial run of a program to recycle used medical masks later this year as the country seeks to reduce waste from the protective gear.

Legislators Wen Yu-hsia (溫玉霞) of the KMT and Su Chiao-hui (蘇巧慧) of the DDP both brought up the topic of mask recycling at a legislative interpellation on Wednesday (March 1) to address the environmental woes of masks with new technologies.

According to Su, surgical masks are usually made from more than three materials, making recycling harder. A company in New Taipei, though, has developed a new technique that can manufacture masks out of one material, an invention conducive to the upcycling of the item that has become an essential part of daily living in Taiwan since COVID-19 hit.

The firm is open to sharing the patented technology, which if promoted on a large scale can pave the way for mask recycling, CNA quoted Su as saying. Wen said masks produced this way can be turned into plastic particles and used to make things like planks, a feat that will help boost Taiwan’s green credentials.

While supporting the idea, Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Chang Tzi-ching (張子敬) said more research is needed to determine the cost-benefit of the approach. Issues such as subsidies and recycling methods also need discussion, he added.

Wang Yu-bin (王嶽斌), an official of the EPA’s recycling branch, said only single-material-made masks will be recycled to ensure quality. Used masks from medical institutions will not be accepted due to hygiene concerns.

EPA is bringing in expertise and incorporating opinions from the industry and retail sector as a pilot program is set to be rolled out at designated places in the second half of the year, according to Wang.