Why are boxes of plastic face shields being shredded in San Benito County? I-Team seeks answers

This comes one week after the I-Team reported on millions of dollars of PPE sitting in the rain in San Mateo County.

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Thursday, January 20, 2022
Plastic face shields shredded at Hollister recycling center
In San Benito County thousands of boxes of PPE are not only sitting outside in unwieldly stacks, but heading to the recycling center to be shredded.

HOLLISTER, Calif. (KGO) -- One week after the ABC7 I-Team uncovered millions of dollars in PPE sitting in the rain in San Mateo County, comes a familiar sight in San Benito County, where thousands more boxes of PPE are not only sitting outside in unwieldly stacks, but heading to the recycling center to be shredded.

So, what's going on?

When ABC7 I-Team reporter Dan Noyes toured the San Mateo Event Center parking lot, he found, "hospital gowns in all different sizes. Here's size M, there's large, and of course, here's double XL."

RELATED: More than $10M worth of masks, protective gear left in the rain outside Bay Area event center

That investigation from last week is getting a huge reaction across the country with more than 600,000 views on TikTok alone. ABC7 I-Team's Dan Noyes received many comments on the report, but also tips to investigate.

One of the tips came from Louk Markham and his wife. They saw something familiar in San Benito County to last week's I-Team report from San Mateo County, showing all that PPE, including hospital gowns, sitting in the rain.

Louk Markham explained that his wife was, "watching the video and it's the same company. She says, 'Louk, that's the same company over on Shelton Drive. If they're letting it sit out in the rain of San Mateo, what's going on over on Shelton Drive?'"

VIDEO: Marines tagged to inspect $10M of COVID protective gear left in the rain

After nearly $10 million of PPE was rained on outside the San Mateo County Event Center, the Marines have been called in to do an inspection.

The Markhams messaged the I-Team, so Dan Noyes met them in Hollister Tuesday, went to the ICU Eyewear warehouse, and found thousands of boxes of PPE stacked high, containing millions of plastic face shields. Some of the columns were on the verge of collapsing, and forklifts were loading them on to flatbeds.

We followed the trucks to a nearby recycling center and saw the face shields going to the shredder.

Louk Markham told us, "To throw away PPE, that's outrageous. I'm a COVID survivor. This is a still a pandemic. We are going into year number three. This is not okay."

RELATED: Bay Area medical center pleads for PPE donations as pandemic worsens

Medical staff at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center made an urgent plea Wednesday morning for personal protective equipment (PPE) and funds as they prepare to weather the third wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Markam took his complaint to his county supervisor. Board Chair Bea Gonzales told the I-Team, "I discovered that these masks were being destroyed at the request of the federal government."

Dan Noyes asked, "Why would the federal government be requiring this county and this business to destroy face shields in a pandemic?"

Gonzales answered, "That I couldn't answer you. And as I said, there's more questions than there are answers and the further questions we ask, the bigger the hole gets."

ICU Eyewear's CEO Kirk Hobbs declined to be interviewed on camera or have a recorded phone conversation. He told us Wednesday the face shields are not being shredded on orders of the federal government.

RELATED: Michigan man arrested for N95 mask fraud with Bay Area victims amid COVID-19 pandemic

Hobbs says there was no market for them, and that his staff looked for someplace to donate the face shields, but failed.

"I understand how bad this looks," he said, "Optically how wasteful this is. We didn't come to this place without trying. We put in a great deal of effort to find a place where they can be used."

Supervisor Gonzales is concerned about PPE being destroyed, and about the impact on the county's landfill, saying, "We have an issue right now with our landfill in that we are in near the 15-year life capacity. So does this refuse that's been put into our landfill, does it belong somewhere else and not in San Benito County?"

Hobbs also told us, ICU will be able to recoup some of the tariffs they paid to import the face shields from China.