Breckenridge Brewery offers personal protective equipment recycling to employees |

Breckenridge Brewery offers personal protective equipment recycling to employees

Recycling boxes at Breckenridge Brewery give employees the opportunity to recycle gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment.
Photo from Brewers Collective

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated a massive need for disposable products like masks and plastic gloves, which has created additional waste and litter. To combat negative environmental impacts, Breckenridge Brewery has found a way to prevent these difficult-to-recycle items from ending up in the landfill.

The brewery and other members of the Brewers Collective, including Denver’s 10 Barrel Brewing Co., have partnered with New Jersey-based private recycling business TerraCycle to collect personal protective equipment.

According to a news release from Brewers Collective, used personal protective equipment will be collected in boxes at the breweries. Once the boxes are filled, they will be sent to TerraCycle where the items will be sorted, cleaned, separated by material and then processed into raw materials that can be used to make other products, such as composite decking, outdoor furniture and shipping pallets.

Hannah Kight, Breckenridge Brewery’s environmental health and safety manager, said the idea developed simply from brewery employees and leadership noticing an uptick in waste as a result of personal protective equipment requirements, which led the breweries to look into recycling options.

“One of the things that we came across as a solution was working with TerraCycle to better recycle the PPE, like gloves, instead of having it go to the landfill,” Kight said. “Because not only was it ending up in landfills, but there have been several reports of things like masks and gloves ending up in the street and just this general litter that’s not great for the environment.”

Kight said employees were given fabric masks to try to cut down on disposable mask waste when the brewery reopened. While many employees continue to wear washable masks, employees still occasionally wear disposable paper masks, which now can be recycled. However, Kight said gloves are used on a daily basis for tasks beyond food preparation, like sanitizing tables and serving guests. Daily glove use by all employees in the brewery was generating a lot of waste.

In addition to gloves and masks, items like ear plugs or safety glasses that can’t go into single-stream recycling bins also can be put in the TerraCycle boxes, Kight said. The recycling boxes are available only to employees.

“Sustainability is really important for Breckenridge across the board,” Kight said. “It’s something as simple as water is needed to brew beer. But we are really conscious of the resources that we use to brew beer and want to make sure that we have the lowest impact on the environment as possible. So whether that’s something like this, recycling PPE, to increasing the amount of solar panels to reducing our water usage, all of that is really important to us so that we can keep brewing beer for a long time.”

Jennifer Schenk, executive director of the High Country Conservation Center, said she wasn’t aware of any other businesses recycling personal protective equipment in the county.

Patrons dine at Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge on Saturday, Feb. 13. The brewery recently started a program that allows employees to recycle their personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

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