Pollution More masks than jellyfish in the sea
Masks have become, much to our regret, the usual companions of our day to day.
It is true that they are essential to protect us from
but they have also created
a new pollution problem
, in seas and oceans already flooded with plastics.
Since they are mandatory, their consumption has only increased and the need to change them daily causes
mountains of discarded masks to
Concerned about the impact that their use is already causing on the environment, researchers around the world have sought formulas to give them a new life and
produce new objects with the plastic materials with which they are made:
from toy and automotive parts to flowerpots. , pallets or furniture.
But how are the different layers of plastic materials that make up a mask transformed into a new product?
First, you have to
"The scientific bibliography that was published at the beginning of the pandemic, when the scarcity of masks was notable, indicated several methods: UV (ultraviolet radiation), spraying with oxygen peroxide under certain conditions, heat ... We have used the latter accompanied from a spray with ethanol ", explains to EL MUNDO
, technology coordinator of Itainnova, the Technological Institute of Aragon.
Once disinfected and chopped, "the processing is, like that of any plastic material, by
melting in extrusion.
The material is heated until it reaches a temperature at which it becomes molten and it is in that state that the it mixes and then takes it to a mold where it acquires its final shape after cooling. In general,
products without great technical demands ", he
Now, not everything is so simple.
For this process to take place on an industrial scale - now, most of the projects are in the study phase - it is necessary, on the one hand,
to make the population aware
of the need to dispose of masks in a responsible way as is done with plastic, paper or medicine containers and, on the other hand,
organize collection and reuse systems
"We don't want to see our rivers, mountains or our own streets
with these products," argues Crespo.
At the moment, few citizens know how to dispose of the mask they have already used.
The most indicated, for the moment, while there are no specific containers, is to deposit it in a closed plastic bag in the container for other remains.
Although the ideal would be that in the future there would be their own containers that would allow their collection to a processing point for later recycling.
Collection and processing
This is precisely what the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas has been doing since its reopening in June 2020 in collaboration with
Thus, they have collected, separated and shredded the masks used by their customers and staff to
manufacture other products such as railroad
and composite platforms.
But this has not been the only project in which this company specializing in difficult-to-recycle waste is participating.
the subsidiary of Telefónica in the United Kingdom, signed an agreement with TerraCycle to distribute
in the stores that the operator has throughout the United Kingdom for all waste derived from personal protective equipment (PPE) used to prevent the contagion of the Covid-19 as
gloves and masks.
The objective of this initiative is that "they can be collected, cleaned and recycled in a safe way to
produce new plastic products".
outraged by the number of masks he saw lying in the parks, streets or squares of his city.
This furniture design students set out to
give them a new use and
into original stools and chairs.
Last June, Kim installed a container to collect masks at his faculty at Kaywon University of Art and Design in Uiwang City, south of Seoul.
In total, he
managed to collect 10,000 used masks.
In addition, he received more than a ton of defective masks that were shipped to him from a factory.
With all this material, the first thing he did was store them for a time to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
Then he removed the rubber bands and the metallic nasal strip and with a heat gun he melted them on a mold at temperatures above 300 degrees.
achieved some original stools made from
white, pink, blue or black
, which were highly applauded by his colleagues.
"It has such a strong message," 20-year-old art student Park Sung-chan told Reuters.
"This will remind us of what we have been through in 2020 with the coronavirus and it is also ecological."
Kin already has in mind to
manufacture other pieces of furniture such as chairs, tables or lamps
from recycled masks.
For now, it has started a campaign to convince the South Korean government and various companies of the need to deploy
their own containers for this type of waste.
Where to throw the masks
Although some companies and municipalities are distributing their own containers to deposit masks or gloves, the truth is that, for now, they are isolated initiatives.
Until this model is implanted, the correct place to dispose of this type of waste is the garbage can where all the remains that are not collected separately are deposited.
That is to say, in no case should they be thrown in the yellow container (specific for packaging), nor in the green one (for glass), nor in the blue one (paper and cardboard), nor in the brown one, which is intended for the organic matter (food and vegetable remains).
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