Corresponding author and research team leader Professor Jie Li said PPE waste – both from health care and the general public – was having a significant impact on the environment.
“We have all seen disposable masks littering our streets, but even when this waste is disposed of properly it all ends up in landfill,” Li said.
“With a circular economy approach, we could keep that waste out of landfill while squeezing the full value out of these materials to create better products – it’s a win on all fronts.”
The next step for the research is to evaluate the potential for mixing the PPE streams, develop practical implementation strategies and work towards field trials.
The team is keen to collaborate with the healthcare and construction industries to further develop the research.
‘A Sustainable Approach on the Utilisation of COVID-19 Plastic Based Isolation Gowns in Structural Concrete’, with RMIT co-authors Dr Rajeev Roychand, Dr Mohammad Saberian, Professor Kevin Zhang and Professor Sujeeva Setunge, is published in Case Studies in Construction Materials (DOI: 10.1016/j.cscm.2022.e01408).
‘Application of COVID-19 single-use shredded nitrile gloves in structural concrete: Case study from Australia’ was published in Science of the Total Environment (DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.151423).
‘Preliminary evaluation of the feasibility of using polypropylene fibres from COVID-19 single-use face masks to improve the mechanical properties of concrete’ was published in Journal of Cleaner Production (DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.126460).
The authors acknowledge the generous support of Casafico Pty Ltd, the Lowitja Institute (Australia's national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research), the RMIT X-Ray Facility and RMIT Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility.
The RMIT Indigenous Pre-Doctoral Research Fellowship scheme forms part of RMIT’s commitment to providing Indigenous researchers early career opportunities. Registrations for the 2023 intake are now open.
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Story: Gosia Kaszubska and Will Wright