Researchers look to make the best of PPE waste
In view of the huge challenge to public safety, the manufacturers of disposable PPE kits have also been asked to devise ways to recycle and manage the waste produced by used kitsUpdated: Sep 03, 2020, 16:50 IST
At least four Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) institutes, along with several private firms, are working on recycling plastic waste from discarded PPE (personal protective equipment) kits, masks and disposable testing equipment. The researchers aim to utilise the recycled material to pave roads, make bricks or reuse them for biomedical purposes after a microwaved process of sterilisation, according to experts.
As per estimates of Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), 19,636 tonnes of biomedical waste is expected to be generated this year across the state. Almost one third of this waste will be in the form of disposable PPE kits, masks, testing swabs and pipes used in the management of Covid-19 patients.
In view of the huge challenge to public safety, the manufacturers of disposable PPE kits have also been asked to devise ways to recycle and manage the waste produced by used kits. The research is focused on three safe options, including the construction of roads with used PPE kits.
Experts from four CSIR institutes, Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), Dehradun; National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune; Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), Durgapur; and Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR), Lucknow, are working to convert discarded PPE kits and other plastic waste into pellets that can be used for road construction or moulded for other applications.
Alok Dhawan, the director of IITR Lucknow, said, “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).”
He added that disposable PPE kits were made of plastic polymers and they could easily be recycled and used to construct roads.
The idea is not new as plastic has been used to construct roads in various parts of the county for at least five years now.
The production of bricks and construction material is another option. A couple of manufacturers of PPE kits are planning to make construction material like bricks and road tiles with discarded PPE kits. Dinesh Srivastav, a Mathura-based PPE kit manufacturer, said, “Making bricks of used PPE kits can be a profitable way to recycle them. A person in Gujarat has successfully made bricks out of used PPE. We are also working with plastic recycling experts to do the same. The plan is to make bricks and interlocking tiles with recycled PPE kits, which can be used in construction.”
The manufacturers are confident that with help of experts they will be able to develop a prototype by the end of September.
“Once the prototype is made, we will get it approved by UPPCB before starting production,” said 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.
Perhaps the most cost-effective method to reduce biomedical waste is to reuse PPE kits. Maser Technology, a start-up, has developed a microwave that can sterilise PPE kits and masks rendering them reusable. Monish Bhandari, the owner of the start-up, said, “We have developed a device named Optimaser that uses microwave technology to sterilise used PPE kits and masks. Twenty PPE kits can be sterilised within 20 minutes using Optimaser. The technology has been tested by AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences).”
According to the manufacturers, one PPE kit can be reused 20 times after being sterilised in Optimaser after each use. The developers are working closely with experts from Lucknow-based IITR in developing the machine. The manufacturers are in talks with various state governments for installing the machines in Covid-19 care facilities across India.