Recycling Workers Are Among the Pandemic Front-Liners

Covid-19 is a source of unsustainable byproducts such as littered PPE, disposable gloves, and tons of plastic packaging for the takeaway food. There are several ways to reduce inevitable pollution resulting from dumped face masks. Production of the biodegradable and reusable filters, and face protection equipment that could be reused after disinfection is corresponded with several recycling projects.

One is a PPE zero-waste box that works like a recycling bin for used safety equipment and protective gear from TerraCycle (https://www.terracycle.com). Small box for disposable gloves, dust masks, garments, hairnets, beardnets, earplugs, and safety glasses costs $148. After the box is full it can be sent back for processing. Paper or wood-based products are recycled or composted. The plastics undergo extrusion and pelletization to be molded into new recycled plastic products.

Another way to up-cycle masks by transforming the textile into plastic-like material was invented by Plaxtil (https://www.plaxtil.com). The collected masks spend 15 days in quarantine in a hangar. Like in the first project, the process is not fully automated and involves manual labour before the material is being shredded into strips, and decontaminated using UV. After that it is mixed with a binding agent to make a paste.

Each one of the described processes is complicated and expensive. Involvement of manual labour in the recycling process also reminds, that not everyone can stay at home during the pandemic. The recycling workers like many others, are the front-liners facing the current pandemic. Their work may be not seen, but it requires courage.

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You may find this interesting https://www.greenhospitals.net/who-we-are/

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I’d say this is true for all manual labours, in essential and non-essential goods production, and in service delivery.

Is this issue of recycling face masks being talked about at all, in your part of the world? In Belgium, I don’t remember reading anything about this, unfortunately it becomes a nth rate concern issue, after health, economy, and recently future national deficit and debt problems, yet another ‘hidden’ cost of a pandemic.

There is a discussion about working conditions for the interns in the hospital: https://wroclaw.wyborcza.pl/wroclaw/7,35771,26709569,studenci-uniwersytetu-medycznego-alarmuja-w-ciasnej-norze.html