VANCOUVER -- A Burnaby company has taken the lead figuring out how to recycle the many masks destined for the landfill. It’s an effort to reduce waste and get some extra life out of a product made of polypropylene - a single-use plastic.

It’s estimated more than 63,000 tons of masks from Canada could end up in oceans or landfills in the next year. And for frontline workers in the fight against the coronavirus, they’re a necessity.

Vitacore Industries, which makes N95 masks here in British Columbia, can churn out up to four million masks and respirators a month. And now, instead of just making them, the company is also setting up collection bins around the province so they can be recycled.

Vitacore teamed up with researchers at Hamilton’s McMaster University and at UBC to figure out how each mask can safely be recycled.

Mikhail Moore, Vitacore’s president, says that’s done by “sterilizing it, melting it down and then turning it into another product.”

Products like reinforcement for concrete, weather barriers or siding.

It’s a Canadian first. Right now, only a few long-term and urgent care clinics in the Vancouver area have collection bins, part of a pilot program that started early last month.

“We are one of four pilot sites in Vancouver that are doing this as a pilot to see how it works out,” says Dr. Afshin Khazei at City Centre. “We are going through about 4,000 masks a month.”

But now that initial pilot program is over, and Vitacore wants to expand the project. The company is looking to set up bins right across the country.

“In order for us to scale we’re going to need a lot of partners and a lot of other companies to get involved,” Moore says.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Tessa Vikander