LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Kurtzer Brothers Garbage and Recycling has seen an increase in personal protective equipment waste over the past two years. Whether it’s gloves or masks, they are increasingly being dumped at the county landfill.
“We’re definitely seeing more of them in trash cans, we’re definitely seeing more of them on the streets because they may have been thrown out or lost by different people,” owner Kent Kurtzer said.
Uribe Refuse Services in Lincoln says they are also seeing an increase. They collect medical waste from many of our local health systems and have seen more biohazard materials than in the past.
In fact, the United Nations Health Agency reported that 87,000 tons of PPE obtained from March 2020 to November 2021 ended up as waste. The agency says the increase in PPE waste has strained waste management systems across the country and threatens our environment.
Our local systems encourage people to throw their masks in the trash and not in the recycling bins.
“They are made of fabrics and cotton, and the elastic bands are of course not things that belong in the recycling avenue or stream. It has to be picked and that just adds to the costs of contamination and the need to do more sorting with the materials,” Kurtzer said.
Kurtzer Brothers encourages Lincoln to reduce and reuse as best you can when it comes to your PPE waste.
“Reduce, reuse where possible, I believe K95s can be reused for up to 40 hours or 5 times, and I know surgical masks are meant to be discarded immediately, but reduce and reuse when you can,” Kurtzer said. .