SEK Recycling Center discusses PPE waste, recycling

Disposable masks and gloves designated as medical waste, making impossible to recycle

PITTSBURG, Kan. – Bobby Gardullo comes to Lakeside Park in Pittsburg just about everyday with his little granddaughter, and while they love the area, they don’t love the litter.Mask

“I notice a lot of trash laying around, a lot of the disposable masks that everyone’s handing out…see gloves, see bottles, a lot of plastic, so it’s a concern to me,” said Gardullo.

It’s a concern for a lot of people, especially environmentalists. Masks and gloves are lightweight, making it easy for them to drift from landfills which is the only place they can go since those items are designated as medical waste and therefore can’t be recycled.Recycling

“It’s a bio-hazard so we don’t mess with it at all. Your gloves, your masks, all that stuff is contaminated so we don’t handle anything like that,” explained Jerry Babcock with SEK Recycling in Pittsburg.

Styrofoam Recycled

Jerry Babcock with the SEK Recycling Center holds up a heavy mass of reduced Styrofoam.

A disposable face mask has a life span of roughly 450 years, but a cloth mask that you can wash and re-use is a greener option. Just about any type of clean paper can be recycled, and thanks to a grant that paid for a new $20,000 machine, Styrofoam can also be recycled in Pittsburg.

“We do do styrofoam now. It’s gotta be clean, can’t have labels or tape on it, and it’s the white packing type Styrofoam,” said Babcock.

Recycling is just one small step towards making a difference. Gardullo challenges others to do their part by picking up debris to help make the world a better place for future generations.

“It’s a scary time we’re going through, so we want to make sure they have everything we had when we were younger growing up. It takes just a few minutes to find a trash can. This is one of the spots we need to keep nice and keep clean.”Trash

The SEK Recycling Center is a not-for-profit organization funded by KDHE, Crawford County and the City of Pittsburg.