Recycling technology turns masks and gowns into school chairs

Last updated at 07:08
mask-gloves-hospital.Getty Images
Gloves and masks like this are used to protect people working in hospitals but have to be thrown away after one use

Special thermal heating machines which convert used plastic masks and gowns into reusable plastic blocks have been bought by five hospitals in the UK.

The equipment turns hospital plastic waste such as gowns, curtains and single-use masks into metre-long blocks.

The blocks are then redeveloped into a range of new products including school chairs, bins and toolboxes.

St Woolos Hospital in Newport, Wales, Queens Hospital in Burton, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Harrogate Hospital and the Royal Cornwall Hospital are all using the machines.

Masks recyclingRoyal Cornwall Hospital
The Royal Cornwall Hospital uses about 10,000 masks a day

The company which developed the technology - Thermal Compaction Group - says that 11 other hospitals are due to receive the technology.

It also says that the machine reduces waste by around 85 percent.

The machine squishes and melts down a material called polypropylene, which is widely used in plastic masks and gowns.

The high temperature of this melting process also sterilises the plastic waste getting rid of any bad or harmful germs, according to TCG.

Waste plasticRoyal Cornwall Hospital
The waste is melted into plastic blocks which can be made into bins, school chairs and other items

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, tens of thousands of tonnes of single-use plastic waste has been created.

In March last year the World Health Organisation asked governments and manufacturers to increase single-use Personal Protection Equipment production by 40 percent.

It's estimated that 53 million single-use face masks are being used in the UK each day, which is the same as about 55,000 tonnes of waste over the last 12 months.

By recycling used PPE plastic can be turned into new useful things instead of being thrown away.

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