Facemask Repurposing

Angie Szumlinski Studies

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has not only created a global health crisis, but it is also now threatening the environment. A multidisciplinary collaborative approach is required to fight against the pandemic and reduce the environmental risks associated with the disposal of used personal protective equipment (PPE). A paper published on Science Direct discusses ways to decrease the impact on our environment through innovative ways of recycling used face masks with other waste materials, etc. In this research, for the first time, a series of experiments, including modified compaction, unconfirmed compression strength and resilient modulus tests were conducted on the blends of different percentages of the shredded face mask (SFM) added to the recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) for road base and subbase applications.

The used face masks were not allowed to use in laboratory testing due to the laboratory work safety rules and restrictions during COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, clean surgical face masks were used in the experimental program and shredded to the sizes of 0.5 cm width and 2 cm length. Metal strips and ear loops were removed and the masks, top and bottom layers, were made of non-woven fabric (spunbond) while the middle layer of the masks was meltdown polypropylene.

Given that most PPE is mainly made of plastics, including polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride and nitrile butadiene rubber, the proposed methodology can be applied to different PPE. Wow, imagine, all those facemasks we see in the trash, on the sidewalks, hanging from rear-view mirrors and around people’s necks could be repurposed and maybe, just maybe, we could enjoy one little positive from this grueling journey we are on!

Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!