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Plaxtil puts single-use face masks back into the loop

French start-up Plaxtil has found a new recycling niche: collecting disposable face masks. Company founders Olivier Civil and Jean-Marc Neveu were able to recycle 70 000 masks since last June.

The entrepreneurs, based in the small town of Châtellerault, originally wanted to create a clothing recycling plant. Then Covid-19 came, presenting an urgent new business model. Civil and Neveu collaborated with local stores and supermarkets to set up a collection network for single-use face masks. These are typically made from plastics like polypropylene.

The output is a plastic fibre that can be used in the production of various textile products. Ultimately, Plaxtil hopes to make the entire textiles industry more sustainable while also fighting the waste problem caused by the corona pandemic.

‘Our process is entirely safe,’ Neveu says. He explains that the collected material is first put in quarantine to avoid using infectious fibre. After that, the material is cleaned in an ultraviolet disinfection tunnel, which removes the few microbes that may still be present via UV rays.

The duo cites figures from the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), stating that if even just 1% of the masks are disposed of incorrectly this would result in 10 million masks littered every single month.

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