Because the pandemic persists all over the world, each month about 130 billion disposable face masks are ending up in landfills, metropolis streets, rivers, seashores and oceans — posing a stark risk to the environmental.
In a study published last week, Australian researchers proposed a possible answer: recycling the used face masks into roads.
“At first of the pandemic, I needed I have been a physician,” stated Mohammad Saberian, a civil engineer at RMIT College who’s the paper’s lead writer. Then he realized that he, too, had an pressing function to play: determining what to do with pandemic-generated detritus.
The paper, printed within the journal Science of the Whole Surroundings, checked out how face masks might be mixed with different recycled building supplies to cut back waste from the pandemic whereas lowering reliance on different supplies like plastic, which is commonly used as filler in roads. The researchers discovered that about three million masks might be put right into a two-lane street of greater than half a mile, and that these roads have been more likely to be stronger and extra versatile than some made with nonrecycled supplies.
“This analysis not solely works, however it could additionally present actual engineering profit,” Dr. Saberian stated, including that he hoped the subsequent step would contain constructing a prototype of the street to completely check its performance.
To conduct their experiment, researchers heated the masks to simulate disinfecting them. They then shredded the masks into strips and blended them with recycled concrete. Finally, the researchers have been left with laborious cylindrical samples, which they examined by making use of weight, warmth and moisture.
The venture just isn’t the primary to recycle materials into roads, neither is it the primary to contemplate what to do with the plenty of discarded private protecting tools, the manufacturing of which has surged since final yr. Firms corresponding to TerraCycle, which accumulate private protecting tools from properties and companies, have additionally grown in popularity in current months.
“We’ve seen spikes in single-used consumption in all places, and this know-how reveals a path for utilizing these supplies,” stated Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist at Boston Faculty who was not concerned within the examine.
He and different scientists stated, nevertheless, that higher options concerned lowering consumption and the manufacturing of disposable supplies, even in a pandemic. “What I actually need to see occurring is us divorcing ourselves from this concept that disposability equals sanitation,” Dr. Krones stated.