(Bloomberg) -- Germany is set to burn almost 800 million unused face masks purchased in the first months of the pandemic because they have passed their sell-by date.

Initial calls for tenders have been issued for candidates to “thermally dispose” of about 730 million surgical and 60 million FFP-2 expired medical face covers, the health ministry’s press service said on Friday, confirming an earlier report by Der Spiegel magazine. In addition, about 20% of masks procured since March 2020 were deemed to have quality defects, the ministry said.

Germany spent €6 billion ($5.9 billion) on face covers at the start of the pandemic, according to Spiegel. Former Health Minister Jens Spahn was criticized at the time for excessive procurement and for using personal connections to buy masks, steps he defended by citing major supply shortages and a desperation to obtain protective coverings swiftly.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.