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COVID-19 Waste Management: Disposable Face Masks Can Be Recycled To Make Roads, Says Study

Developed by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the new road-making material is a mix of shredded single-use face masks and processed building rubble designed to meet civil engineering safety standards

COVID-19 Waste Management: Disposable Face Masks Can Be Recycled To Make Roads, Says Study

Melbourne: Researchers have shown how disposable face masks could be recycled to make roads, in a circular economy solution to pandemic-generated waste. Their study shows that using the recycled face mask material to make just one-kilometre of a two-lane road would use up about 3 million masks, preventing 93 tonnes of waste from going to landfill. Developed by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the new road-making material is a mix of shredded single-use face masks and processed building rubble designed to meet civil engineering safety standards.

Also Read: Waste Management During Coronavirus Pandemic: 27-year-old Recycles Bio-medical Waste Into Eco-friendly Bricks

Analysis shows the face masks help to add stiffness and strength to the final product, designed to be used for base layers of roads and pavements. The study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment is the first to investigate potential civil construction applications of disposable surgical face masks. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an estimated 6.8 billion disposable face masks being used across the globe each day.

First author Dr Mohammad Saberian said multidisciplinary and collaborative approaches were now needed to tackle the environmental impact of COVID-19, particularly the risks associated with the disposal of used PPE.

This initial study looked at the feasibility of recycling single-use face masks into roads and we were thrilled to find it not only works, but also delivers real engineering benefits, Dr Saberian said.

“We hope this opens the door for further research, to work through ways of managing health and safety risks at scale and investigate whether other types of PPE would also be suitable for recycling.”

Also Read: National Green Tribunal Directs CPCB To Ensure Strict Compliance Of Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules

Making Roads With Masks

Roads are made of four layers: subgrade, base, sub-base and asphalt on top. All the layers must be both strong and flexible to withstand the pressures of heavy vehicles and prevent cracking. Processed building rubble – known as recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) – can potentially be used on its own for the three base layers. But the researchers found adding shredded face masks to RCA enhances the material while simultaneously addressing environmental challenges on two fronts: PPE disposal and construction waste. Construction, renovation and demolition account for about half the waste produced annually worldwide, and in Australia, about 3.15 million tons of RCA is added to stockpiles each year rather than being reused.

The study identified an optimal mixture – 1 per cent shredded face masks to 99 per cent RCA – that delivers on strength while maintaining good cohesion between the two materials. The mixture performs well when tested for stress, acid and water resistance, as well as strength, deformation and dynamic properties, meeting all the relevant civil engineering specifications.

Also Read: Yearender 2020: Stepping Into 2021 With Bio-medical Waste Management Lessons From COVID-19 Pandemic

While the experimental study was conducted with a small amount of unused surgical face masks, other research has investigated effective methods for disinfecting and sterilising used masks. A comprehensive review of disinfection technologies found 99.9 per cent of viruses could be killed with the simple “microwave method”, where masks are sprayed with an antiseptic solution then microwaved for one minute. In related work, the RMIT researchers have also investigated the use of shredded disposable face masks as an aggregate material for making concrete, with promising preliminary findings.

Professor Jie Li leads the RMIT School of Engineering research team, which focuses on recycling and reusing waste materials for civil construction. Professor Li said the team was inspired to look at the feasibility of blending face masks into construction materials after seeing so many discarded masks littering their local streets.

We know that even if these masks are disposed of properly, they will go to landfill or they’ll be incinerated, he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has not only created a global health and economic crisis but has also had dramatic effects on the environment. If we can bring circular economy thinking to this massive waste problem, we can develop the smart and sustainable solutions we need.”

Also Read: Budget 2021: Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 Will Focus On Faecal Sludge Management, Says Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.

World

22,70,55,138Cases
18,97,86,461Active
3,25,98,424Recovered
46,70,253Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 22,70,55,138 and 46,70,253 have died; 18,97,86,461 are active cases and 3,25,98,424 have recovered as on September 17, 2021 at 5:36 am.

India

3,33,81,728 34,403Cases
3,39,0563,867Active
3,25,98,424 37,950Recovered
4,44,248 320Deaths
In India, there are 3,33,81,728 confirmed cases including 4,44,248 deaths. The number of active cases is 3,39,056 and 3,25,98,424 have recovered as on September 17, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,11,525 3,595

52,893 310

63,20,310 3,240

1,38,322 45

Kerala

44,46,228 22,182

1,86,754 4,559

42,36,309 26,563

23,165 178

Karnataka

29,65,191 1,108

16,202 282

29,11,434 808

37,555 18

Tamil Nadu

26,40,361 1,693

16,756 120

25,88,334 1,548

35,271 25

Andhra Pradesh

20,34,786 1,367

14,708 105

20,06,034 1,248

14,044 14

Uttar Pradesh

17,09,628 23

193 11

16,86,549 11

22,886 1

West Bengal

15,59,567 707

8,025 25

15,32,922 725

18,620 7

Delhi

14,38,373 28

409 5

14,12,880 22

25,084 1

Odisha

10,18,298 580

5,335 105

10,04,845 681

8,118 4

Chhattisgarh

10,04,988 31

352 2

9,91,077 29

13,559

Rajasthan

9,54,230 4

103 1

9,45,173 5

8,954

Gujarat

8,25,677 22

149 0

8,15,446 22

10,082

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,374 7

119 5

7,81,738 12

10,517

Haryana

7,70,697 9

327 8

7,60,562 17

9,808

Bihar

7,25,864 12

72 6

7,16,134 6

9,658

Telangana

6,62,785 259

5,282 43

6,53,603 301

3,900 1

Punjab

6,01,180 30

314 11

5,84,399 38

16,467 3

Assam

5,97,074 468

5,381 15

5,85,914 479

5,779 4

Jharkhand

3,48,102 6

102 8

3,42,867 14

5,133

Uttarakhand

3,43,330 20

284 12

3,35,657 32

7,389

Jammu And Kashmir

3,27,466 170

1,421 72

3,21,630 98

4,415

Himachal Pradesh

2,16,430 127

1,568 82

2,11,215 206

3,647 3

Goa

1,75,183 95

699 1

1,71,195 96

3,289

Puducherry

1,25,170 107

963 63

1,22,380 42

1,827 2

Manipur

1,17,913 216

2,614 7

1,13,478 219

1,821 4

Tripura

83,787 31

427 26

82,553 56

807 1

Meghalaya

78,958 229

1,804 140

75,784 86

1,370 3

Mizoram

76,591 1,121

13,888 85

62,449 1,202

254 4

Chandigarh

65,168 4

31 2

64,319 2

818

Arunachal Pradesh

53,990 47

536 9

53,183 56

271

Sikkim

30,802 64

775 28

29,648 36

379

Nagaland

30,763 32

505 14

29,610 44

648 2

Ladakh

20,631 6

41 1

20,383 5

207

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,670

5 0

10,661

4

Lakshadweep

10,353

4 0

10,298

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,595 3

15 2

7,451 1

129

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