RecycleGO, an Irvington, N.J.-based technology provider in the waste and recycling industry, has partnered with Mask Force NYC, a community relief project, to provide masks for healthcare providers and other essential service workers in the New York area.
“In early March, I went to the Dominican Republic to make a presentation at a sustainability event. While there, I met other New York area professionals making a difference in their sectors,” says Stan Chen, CEO and co-founder of RecycleGO. “When we all arrived back to New York, the state was already undergoing a rapid upswing of COVID-19 cases, so we decided to build on the inertia of our overlapping missions and form a group to that would optimize its supply chain networks to fast-track masks to those in need.”
Established by the RETI (Resilience, Education, Training and Innovation) Center, a New York-based nonprofit that was started to help NYC communities better prepare for disasters caused by climate change, its Mask Force initiative is a platform for personal protective equipment (PPE) campaigns throughout the U.S. Through its network, it is helping bring PPE to seven cities.
The RETI Center is dedicated to building strength in communities through resiliency focused economic development by following the guidelines set by OneNYC and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, according to its website.
Mask Force NYC volunteers connect with hospital and healthcare workers to gauge their PPE needs. RecycleGO uses the donations received from the Mask Force NYC Go Fund Me campaign to buy and transport masks to New York. So far, the group has raised more than $50,000.
According to the Go Fund Me website, Mask Force has identified a disconnect between large-scale suppliers, freight services, centralized hospital administration, and the frontline medical staff who have an urgent need for comparatively small quantities of PPE.
“Mask Force is positioned as the ‘triage’ solution, delivering fast and direct to healthcare workers with immediate needs,” says the website. “Within less than 1.5 weeks of starting, Mask Force delivered 8,000 masks directly to more than 15 public hospitals and healthcare centers. More PPE is sourced on a weekly basis and is immediately brought to those who need it.”
Volunteers are routed to that location, and confirm with a photo that they have successfully distributed the masks. Tracking each step of the supply chain like this allows RecycleGO to report this information on its blockchain, which verifies the overall process and the transactions involved at each step.
Tapping into the company's international supply network, RecycleGO is able to source KN95 masks from China.
“It's amazing how far our networks really reach these days. While my connections from years of international metal trading started the process of creating a supply chain, once the Mask Force Campaign went public, I also had a wide variety of friends and colleagues come to me with their own suggestions,” says Chen. “Together, we were able to build a supply chain that would efficiently transport masks to New York in time to meet the growing needs of our healthcare providers here.”
Once the materials reach the U.S., RecycleGO uses its logistics software for dispatchers, Mission Control, and its route optimization application, Chariot, to coordinate the pickup of masks. After the shipment of masks are disinfected, the Chariot app optimizes the routes for volunteers' distribution to medical providers, notifying dispatchers on Mission Control when volunteers start and end their route.
Chen says his background and education led him to get involved in a solution for the PPE shortage in New York.
“Although I ended up following my father into the recycling industry, I originally went to school for medical science. Seeing how quickly the virus overwhelmed other healthcare systems, in Italy and elsewhere, I knew we were likely to face the same situation here in New York,” he says. “I knew my colleagues in the medical sector would be facing extreme shortages in PPE supplies. So when cases started to rise here in mid-March, I reached out to my networks to see how we could get masks to healthcare providers and what I could do to help.”
As of April 9, the partnership has distributed about 29,000 masks to hospitals in New York.
“It would be phenomenal if the recycling industry would like to work with us to set up a recycled material supply chain for mask production or reuse. We also welcome support from anyone who would like to donate money to our cause,” says Chen.