By Alissa Malpass, Year 7
PPE recycling has always been a hard thing to do, with many businesses and hospitals using them daily. But due to the covid-19 pandemic, lots of people and hospitals have been using PPE in their daily lives. And if we don't want an excessive amount of landfill, we need to find a way of disposing PPE effectively and in eco-friendly ways. This is where PPE compacting machines step in!
According to CTV News, this machine can help turn used PPE into almost anything: 'Based out of Cardiff in Wales, the Thermal Compaction Group (TCG) utilizes massive microwave-like machines that melt and compress used or faulty face masks, gowns and curtains – which are made of polypropylene – at 350 C to produce one metre rectangular blocks.'
Unfortunately, single-use PPE are hard to recycle traditionally. They cost more for local recyclers to collect and process than the resulting materials are worth. This makes it 'useless' for local recyclers, as financially it isn't worth it.
This is why recycling used PPE into useful items, or where possible reusing your items is so important.
Adidas have a very good recycling scheme, using plastic from sea pollution to make sportswear and trainers. See 'Adidas Turns Plastic Bottles and Ocean Pollution Into Sneakers (businessinsider.com)'
Business Insider reports that: ' Adidas is also developing a 100% recyclable shoe called Futurecraft Loop, which is expected to be available in 2021. In 2015 Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans to turn marine pollution into sportswear. Adidas uses recycled plastic bottles as a replacement for virgin polyester.'
This is good because polyester is a super-strong polymer made of a mixture of ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. Also, polyester is not biodegradable, so throwing your old polyester garments away will contribute to landfills. Let's be honest, you aren't going to give away your old sports clothes, right? It doesn't sound too hygeinic to me to be honest...
Remember, polyester is 100% plastic-based, so microplastics inside them can be dangerous to animals and plants, or to nature in general. But it is one of the cheapest materials on the market, and widely used for sportswear because it is very breathable.
The Evolving Problem of Microplastics in a PPE Era | Technology Networks says: 'A plethora of research studies have shown that microplastics are now ubiquitous in our lives and environment. From the depths of our oceans to the top of our mountains and even in some of the most untouched corners of the globe, microplastics are being detected everywhere. To compound the problem, the advent of COVID-19 has seen uptake of single-use plastics in the form of personal protective equipment (PPE) skyrocket.'
This makes PPE even more dangerous to throw away. Large companies and schools who use a lot of PPE, even if it is just due to the covid pandemic, should look into using proper PPE recyclers or to organise some kind of collection that gets properly disposed off after being gathered in environmentally friendly ways.