Plastic waste

Heriot-Watt leads scheme to recycle PPE

Discarded face mask
Discarded face masks are a growing problem

Heriot-Watt University has teamed up with Britain’s largest manufacturer of plastic-based personal protective equipment (PPE) to in a ground-breaking recycling project.

Since the start of the pandemic, an estimated 8.4m tonnes of plastic waste has been generated by 193 countries and the new technique promises to recycle 10kg of waste PPE every hour. 

A two year project has been agreed with Globus Group to develop the process which the team hopes to see adopted more widely.

Chemical engineer at Heriot-Watt Dr Aimaro Sanna said: “We will be working closely with our commercial partner Globus Group to develop a bespoke process that will be applied to PPE plastic waste that cannot currently be recycled mechanically due to various technological, economic or ecological reasons.

“As the world strives to reduce its landfill, ocean impact and carbon emissions, this project is a significant step towards addressing the increased waste generated during the global pandemic.”

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Globus Group has been producing one billion medical masks and 300 million FFP respirators per annum for healthcare trusts across the UK. The manufacturing process currently results in 7g of waste material per medical mask. 

The new scheme launched by Globus Group and Heriot-Watt University will develop an innovative process for cost and energy-efficient recycling and repurposing of this PPE waste.  

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership is co-funded by Innovate UK and the Scottish Funding Council.  

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