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A journey from mask to furniture

As the UK battles the unrelenting march of COVID, organisations including the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust are recycling their disposable masks into material that can be used to make new products like bottles, bins and furniture.

Cardiff-based firm Thermal Compaction Group (TCG), is behind the technology and has to date sold their patented “Sterimelt” devices to seven hospital trusts in England. These devices heat polypropylene plastic to up to 350 degrees Celsius and compress it into rectangular blocks that can be sold and converted into pellets for new plastic products.

Gamechanger

Although TCG doesn’t currently recommend using its machines to deal with contaminated waste, the heat of the devices mean the blocks come out in a near-sterile state.

As well as recycling plastic, the technology can significantly impact trusts’ carbon emissions, reducing the volume of waste that needs to be transported off-site. The company estimates that for every 10,000 kilograms of waste processed through Sterimelt, hospital trusts will save 7,500 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions.

“We hope this will be a real game changer in the way tackle single use PPE, not only for us here in Cornwall but across the UK and beyond,” Royal Cornwall’s care group general manager Roz Davies recently said in a statement. The use of masks has grown extraordinarily this year but now we have the option to recycle them, as well as other items such as theatre wraps and gowns.”

Although TCG’s technology is in a relatively small number of organisations at present, it has recently exported a unit into the Netherlands and we’ve had enquiries from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa.