Scientists are working on a new technique to recycle single-use COVID face masks, plastic aprons and visors, converting medical waste into green fuel.
Used PPE is currently incinerated, which produces climate-warming carbon emissions. The new technique, devised by a Swansea University-led team, uses sunlight to break the items down into hydrogen.
The process involves putting waste into a simple device, similar to a washing machine, and builds on the team’s previous work on generating hydrogen from waste plastics. This technique is known as photoreforming. Researchers are currently exploring its effectiveness in killing off pathogens, including the COVID virus.
This new way of recycling used PPE could potentially save the NHS a great deal of money. It’s estimated that they spent £700m a year disposing of hazardous medical waste across the UK, even before the pandemic.
Single-use facemasks are quickly becoming an environmental problem. When discarded on the side of the road, they can become a hazard for birds and other small animals. They’re also polluting our oceans, which can be harmful to marine life. While the new recycling technology will undoubtedly ease the strain on the NHS, the general public must also do their part to reduce the environmental impact of single-use facemasks.
Buying reusable fabric face masks is the simplest way to cut down on waste. When this isn’t an option however, it’s essential that disposable face masks are discarded properly. As with all other normal waste, facemasks should be thrown away in a suitable bin. Careless littering should always be avoided, but it’s especially important when the rubbish in question presents such a risk of harm to wildlife.
Although we can’t help with PPE recycling, our recycling centres can help you safely dispose of a wide range of household and commercial waste. This includes, but is not limited to, WEEE (Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment), metal, hazardous waste (including batteries, paints and pesticides), plastic and glass. We also offer confidential document shredding.
Locate your nearest household waste centre and scrap yard using the list below. Unsure of where your waste needs to go? Contact our team and we'll be more than happy to help. For your local council charges visit the Oxford Council and Dorset For You websites.