Innovation in recycling and sterilisation technologies has resulted in a breakthrough for the recycling of PPE.
Yorkshire based company ReWorked (www.reworked.com) has developed a full-service operation, to process disposable face-masks, gloves and visors for public and private sectors.
In collaboration with Thermal Compaction Group (TCG), testing has begun to recycle face-masks from The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust. Previously their masks would have been incinerated; a process that releases harmful emissions such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Through further exploration, the joint companies hope the scheme will roll out to hospitals across the UK.
ReWorked marketing manager Izzie Glazzard says: “We are on the brink of launching some large scale PPE recycling schemes on the UK high-street. It provides an invaluable service for customers who want protection from Covid-19, but don’t want the environment to suffer as a consequence.”
The driving force behind the scheme is the rise in PPE usage seen worldwide due to the pandemic. Estimates say globally we are using 129 billion disposable masks and 65 billion plastic gloves every month.
The WWF says: “If only 1% of the worlds face masks are disposed of incorrectly, 10 million masks will still end up polluting fragile ecosystems every month.
How it works (The innovation)
The PPE waste is collected, using various methods depending on the location. After a 72 hour quarantine, the waste undergoes a lengthy process of shredding and washing.
The shredded plastic is layered onto what ReWorked call their “Stormboard Mill”, where it is heated to over 200C and pressed into a solid board. These durable plastic boards can be used as building materials or cut to become furniture, bins and other practical items.
ReWorked refers to the process as Reclaiming The Mask, as part of their ongoing #ReclaimTheMask campaign, urging companies to take control and responsibility for the growing PPE waste issue.