Never recycle face masks: Warning comes amid increased recycling in St. Louis


ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - More people are having things shipped to their homes during the pandemic, so, more people are recycling, which is both good and bad.

OneSTL encourages sustainability in the region.  They say they're responding to a 20% increase in residential recycling.

“While it’s great to see recycling bins and dumpsters full, it’s critical they are filled with the correct materials,” said Elysia Musumeci, sustainability outreach and education coordinator with Brightside St. Louis.

Contaminants are an issue.  Ideally, your recycling should be clean and dry.  If a greasy food container gets into the system, it contaminates other clean items and therefore creates even more waste.

98% of what's recycled in the St. Louis region is made into something else by a manufacturer, Musumeci says, so it's all valuable and it all reduces landfill waste.

Working from home has also created some material shortages.  There's been a 50% drop in commercial recycling because so many people are working from home (mostly paper and plastic used to make toilet paper and cleaning supply packaging).


Recycling centers have also seen a huge increase in PPE being mixed in with recyclables.  This can be a health risk to workers at the recycling plant, and PPE should never be recycled.

“We’re glad to see people are wearing masks, but we don’t like to see them end up in the recycling bin,” said Musumeci.

For a list of what you can and cannot recycle click here.

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