O2 to install PPE recycling boxes in stores

Telecoms giant O2 will begin collecting used personal protective equipment (PPE) at UK stores this month, as part of a new partnership with Terracycle.

O2 to install PPE recycling boxes in stores

Littered PPE presents problems for public health and the environment

Under the partnership, collection boxes will be sent to all of O2’s UK stores. O2 will encourage customers to drop their used PPE into the boxes and employees will then collect the waste streams and seal the boxes when full. 

TerraCycle will then recieve the boxes and aggregate, clean and shred the plastic-based material. It will be melted into pellets that can be used to manufacture new plastic products like decking and storage containers.

As of April 21, more than one billion pieces of PPE had been distributed in the UK, almost all of them containing plastic components. With shortages for the care sector and the NHS being addressed and with ever-more non-essential retailers reopening with new safety measures, the figure is now believed to be far higher.

While the items have proven vital in keeping citizens safe during the pandemic, they are broadly hard-to-recycle. Moreover, many local authorities have had to reduce kerbside recycling provisions during lockdown. As such, PPE is already littering landscapes and polluting water habitats in the UK and beyond.

“The exponential growth in plastic PPE could be very costly for the planet – that’s why we’re proud to be taking a leadership role with O2 in safely and responsibly recycling the PPE used across their retail estate in the UK,” TerraCycle Europe’s head of communications Stephen Clarke said.

“We would encourage more retailers to work with us and to follow the example O2 is setting.”

TerraCycle recently partnered with A Plastic Planet to launch a recycling service for the world’s first plastic-free PPE visors.

O2, meanwhile, is aiming to become a net-zero-carbon business by 2025 and is continuing to offer a mobile phone recycling programme.  

Sarah George

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