Scientists in Scotland are looking at a new way to make use of this plastic waste, which includes respirators and face coverings used during the Covid pandemic.
Dr Aimaro Sanna from Heriot-Watt University said she hoped the research would demonstrate how countries around the world can deal with plastic PPE waste, with many unable to process this properly at the moment.
An estimated 8.4 million tones of PPE waste has been generated around the world since the start of the pandemic, with most of this ending up in landfill.
The Independent previously revealed the UK had more than 300 million items of expired PPE in its stock.
Researchers from the Edinburgh university and the PPE maker Globus Group are now exploring another way to recycle unwanted or old stock.
The project, which will run for two years, will turn plastic protective equipment into pyrolysis oil, which could then be refined to make new commercial products.
This could include fuels or new PPE.
“Initially, the research will help to recycle over 100 tonnes of product generated by the manufacturing process every year – the equivalent to 10kg of waste every hour,” Dr Sanna, assistant professor in chemical and process engineering at Heriot-Watt University, said.
“However, our hope is that this new process will be adopted more widely.”
Questions have been raised over how to tackle the rising waste of PPE during the Covid pandemic as items became part of daily life, amid warnings these discarded plastic items were winding up in oceans and polluting the environment.
Last year, a study showed the potential for plastic PPE to be turned into renewable liquid fuels.
Additional reporting by PA
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