Scientists in New Zealand are working on making COVID-19 gowns and masks for health workers which can be decontaminated and used again.
According to the VOA, the researchers said they wanted to reduce the mounting heaps of personal protective equipment (PPEs) discarded the world over daily.
Billions of face masks discarded
Mark Staiger, an associate professor of materials engineering at Canterbury University, said that 3 million face masks were used per minute the world over. This was leading to a growing amount of waste.
“The amount of waste that we are producing by the pandemic is huge,” he said, “It has been estimated that around 3 million face masks are used per minute worldwide. Other studies have shown that around 3.5 billion face masks and face shields are being discarded globally daily.”
Thus, he said that the new research looked into how they could make the plastics that the masks and gowns easily recyclable.
Decontaminating without destroying
According to the report, the aim is to safely disinfect the equipment after each usage, ensuring that they are used once again. However, Staiger said they were facing challenges of decontaminating the face masks without destroying the mask’s material.
“For example, N95 masks have a special electrostatic layer inside them, often used to capture very small particles. If that layer gets damaged by the decontamination treatment you are using, this would render the mask ineffective and lose its functionality,” Staiger told the VOA.
The study began in 2020 and has now entered its final stages, with the finish of the project slated for later this year.
The dawning of the reality that COVID-19 could be around for much longer than anticipated has meant that the usage of face masks and PPEs could be around for much longer. The PPEs and masks form a barrier between a person’s skin and the virus/bacteria. Thus, they are designed to be used once.