News & Politics

A Recycling Company Just Discovered 36,000 N95 Masks in a Dumpster

A Maryland firm found 150 cases of the masks that someone threw away last year.

Andrew Springer unloads boxes of masks at Virginia Hospital Center. Photo courtesy of Andrew Springer.
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For Beltsville recycling company Sun Services, the old cliche “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” rings true. While unloading dumpsters last year, partner Gary Shipp discovered 36,000 N95 masks amid the debris. He saved the protective gear, and now Shipp and his partners, Andrew Springer and son Brian Shipp, are donating them to local hospitals and nursing homes.

It’s not unusual to find an interesting item among the 500 to 600 tons of construction material dropped at the recycling facility each day. The junk typically includes hoses, power tools, and other miscellaneous items contractors throw away when they move to the next job.

When Gary spotted the 150 cases of N95 masks last year, the partners didn’t know the rubbish would turn out to be a lifesaving find. “He wants to save stuff all the time. And Brian and I were like, ‘Gary, you cannot keep saving all this stuff. We’ve got to throw it away,” Springer says.

Luckily, Gary didn’t heed their advice. Last Friday, he confessed to the partners that he had in fact kept the masks. By that afternoon, the team made their first drop-off at Virginia Hospital Center.

Given the N95 shortages for healthcare workers, the Sun Recycling partners decided to donate the masks.”These people are out there trying to help us. If we can’t do something simple to help them, we can forget it,” says Springer.

They’ve doled out N95s at hospitals like Inova Fairfax and GW Hospital, as well as smaller outfits—a hospice center in Arlington, a senior living community in Maryland. “The one thing we do not want to see happen is for them to go sit on a shelf somewhere,” says Springer.

He predicts they will have enough supplies to continue donations for a few more days.

Daniella Byck
Lifestyle Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in 2022. She was previously with Outside Magazine and lives in Northeast DC.