Research has shown that approximately 3 million face masks per minute are being used across the world. Since plastic face masks are single use, the alarming statistic also indicates that the same number of masks would be discarded. It’s becoming increasingly common to find face masks washed up on shores and ending up in landfills.
Wearing a face mask assists in stopping the spread of Covid-19. However, disposing masks also means generating more waste. So, can face masks be recycled? What is the process for recycling face masks? What kind of medical Waste Disposal Machine is required?
To discover whether face masks can be recycled, we firstly need to know what they are made of. You might have seen face masks in blue, white or with special designs. Regardless of the colour, disposable face masks consist of three materials. These are polypropylene, metal, nylon and spandex.
Polypropylene is used for the three-ply face mask material; metal (often aluminum) is used for the nose bridge, and a mixture of nylon and spandex is used for the ear loops. To recycle face masks responsibly, all three types of materials need to be separated upon material collection. This applies to both defected/rejected masks and discarded masks. Used masks need to be sterilized before recycling.
There are two major steps of face mask recycling – size reduction and pelletization. With help from recycling machines, the polypropylene would be extracted from the face masks and subsequently shredded and granulated into an approximate nail size. The granules would then be further processed to become polypropylene pellets. The recycled pellets can be combined with virgin resins to create new products. As a result, we can help preserve the environment and natural resources by using less virgin raw materials.
If the aluminum strips and the ear loops have already been removed, the polypropylene can be fed directly into a granulator for size reduction. We have previously tested with our granulator, CS360. We will let the machine speak for itself, watch it in motion here:
However, manual removal is not ideal as it is often too costly and time-consuming.
An alternative solution requires feeding face masks into a complete recycling system. This method requires less labour and is less cost-intensive in the long term. The system starts with a single-shaft shredder, which is used as the primary size reduction machine to shred the face masks. Material feeding can be achieved by a conveyor belt, forklift or manually by hand.
Once the biomedical shredder cuts the face masks into smaller pieces, the masks disintegrate. This makes material separation easier. Other recycling machines such as sink-float separation tanks, magnetic separators and eddy current separators are required to separate the nylon ear loops and aluminum strips from the polypropylene.
The world has enough problems, and we are here to provide solutions to hazardous waste. At Wiscon, we do not believe in “one size fits all”. Through consultations, we understand our customer’s goals and needs before preparing a custom-made recycling solution.
We are ready to revitalize your solid waste. Whether you are starting a new recycling business or want to do in-house recycling, we have the right solution for you. Contact us for a free consultation.
Face mask statistics from Science Daily – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210310122431.htm
Source: Lucas Meneses, from Pexels
Source: Jievani Weerasinghe