Residents across Cambridgeshire were urged not to try and recycle used face masks and PPE equipment after the county experienced an upsurge surge in rejected waste.

Since July 1, 12 recycling loads totalling 54.95 tonnes have been rejected across the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area, all of which contained medical or PPE waste.

A county council spokesman said: “This contributed to the batches of recycling not being able to be re-reprocessed.

“All of this material is over seven and a half times the weight of an African elephant and over twelve times as heavy as a hippopotamus. This is recycling that would have otherwise gone on to become something else.”

As Cambridgeshire and Peterborough continues to deal with the local impacts of coronavirus – the council is advising “there are simple things we can all to do keep caring for the environment”.

The council believes that with facemasks now a common sight and mandatory in many locations, using a washable, re-usable facemask rather than lots of single use ones is much better for the environment.

“Masks that are designed to be used only once are destined to end-up in landfill or as litter, and as non-recyclable items they are likely to cause more landfill if not disposed of correctly,” said the spokesman.

“Instead of using disposable face masks, it’s easy to make your own face covering at home using items you may have around the house.

“You can find out how to make your own face covering by following the steps on the Public Health England website. However, if you do have to wear disposable, single-use PPE, make sure it goes in your general rubbish bin and not the recycling. They can’t be recycled.”

The council says it costs dearly to remove incorrect items from recycling and can lead to bigger batches of recycling being rejected and ending up in landfill.

Councillor Peter Murphy, chairman of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Waste Partnership, said: “Coronavirus hasn’t gone away so it remains important that we all keep caring and follow the rules – but we can ensure we’re looking after the environment at the same time.

“Use a re-usable facemask that you can wash is a much greener option than single-use versions.”