Kiwi company looks to recycle 5 million face masks a month

Laura James
Source: 1News

A Kiwi company's revealed it's set to start recycling single use face masks, with immediate capacity to take five million a month.

The essential item in our Covid toolbox, until now, has been destined for the landfill or the side of the street.

Future Post founder, Jerome Wenzlick, noticed the problem.

"Coming in and out of the odd airport... you walk out you see a bin overflowing with these damn masks, you drive up the road and they're all over the side of the road," he says.

"I thought, well, we're made to wear them, [but] no one's put any thought into what to do with them afterwards."

His company, based in the south-west Auckland suburb of Waiuku, already recycles 21 tonnes of plastic a day, making fence posts.

Used disposable face masks to be converted into farm posts.

It's now found a way to add masks to the recipe.

Wenzlick says collection bins will be placed at all of our airports, starting in Auckland.

He says he's also in talks with big companies including Air New Zealand and Fonterra.

Auckland Transport told 1 NEWS it would be interested too.

"At the moment we'll be able to take about 5 million masks per month," Wenzlick said, "once we expand here, and hopefully down in South Island we'll be able to take four to five times that.

"We're not gonna make any money out of it, but I'd rather see them going here than littering the place."

Masks will be delivered to their recycling plant in sealed bags.

"Our guys won't actually touch the mask itself, and the masks stay in the bag for probably 3 or 4 weeks before they come here", he said.

They'll then be shredded, mixed with other plastics, and melted to create the plastic posts.

The heat involved in the process will kill any remaining bugs. Each fence post will have around 1000 face masks in them.

The product, already popular in the farming community and for other businesses like vineyards, are an alternative to wooden posts.

Future Post says they're longer lasting and don't leech any chemicals, like wood can.

Recycled plastic posts by Future Posts.

Wenzlick told 1 NEWS with funding, it could increase its capacity greatly.

"We're standing up and trying to make a difference but we still don't get much, sorry let me rephrase, any support from the Government."

In a statement, the Ministry for the Environment said, "We are glad to see New Zealand companies taking the initiative to find end of life solutions for discarded single-use products".

It says making a "closed-loop" for complex products, like face masks, can be a real challenge