Masks: The new plastic epidemic


Designed to shield us from the health crisis, the number of masks and gloves discarded in public spaces are contributing to another epidemic: plastic pollution. France has just doubled fines for littering face masks from €68 to €135. This comes after disheartening underwater images of surgical masks and latex gloves on the Mediterranean seabed.


The large majority of Covid-19 waste is however generated in hospitals. In China, medical waste multiplied by six at the peak of the pandemic. In France, it has almost doubled. Today, hospitals are considering ways to re-use essential items as an alternative to incineration.

Substitutes to burning hazardous medical waste do exist. One company in Belgium has developed technology to decontaminate the waste and transform it into material that can be recycled.

AMB Ecosteryl's expertise with hospital waste led the Belgian government to ask it to work on a project that would make single-use masks reusable. Its latest innovation enables disposable masks to be treated using dry heat, making them reusable up to four times. 

The technology has already attracted the attention of businesses outside of health settings.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app