Can the plastic waste from discarded PPE (personal protective equipment) kits, masks and disposable testing equipment be recycled and gainfully used?
Well, four Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) institutes and a number of private firms are working towards it. The aim of the researchers is to utilise the recycled material for paving roads, making bricks or reusing them for biomedical purposes after a microwaved process of sterilisation, according to a report in the Hindustan Times.
The Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) has estimated that around 19,600 tonnes of biomedical waste will be generated in the state this year of which one-third will be in the form of disposable PPE kits, masks, testing swabs and pipes used in the management of COVID-19 patients.
With public safety being paramount during the pandemic, manufacturers of disposable PPE kits have been asked to keep in mind ways of recycling and managing the waste.
Experts from CSIR institutes, Indian Institute of Petroleum Dehradun, National Chemical Laboratory Pune; Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute Durgapur and Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR) Lucknow have been working to try and convert discarded PPE kits and other plastic waste into pellets that can be used for road construction or moulded for other applications.
“Our Institute is working to ensure that discarded PPE kits are disinfected before being utilised to make other items. We will also ensure that the recycled material is used as per the regulations laid down by CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board),” IITR Lucknow director Alok Dhawan was quoted as saying.
Since PPE kits are made of plastic polymers, they can be easily recycled and used to construct roads, he added.
Production of bricks and construction material is another option.
“Making bricks out of used PPE kits can be a profitable way to recycle them… It has been done before. The plan is to make bricks and interlocking tiles with recycled PPE kits, which can be used in construction,” said Mathura-based PPE kit manufacturer Dinesh Srivastav.
“We are also working on a system to collect used PPE kits from hospitals in a safe manner to ensure that infection is not transmitted during the operation,” he added.