Thermal Compaction Group, a South Wales company, has developed an innovative method to recycle single-use personal protective equipment (PPE). They have the aim of finding a solution to the mountain of waste produced due to the pandemic.
TCG is a green business focused on sustainable waste solutions with a vast network of industry partners. They are a specialist group of companies that offer cost effective solutions to waste management problems globally. Their team is made up of researchers, engineers and experienced business owners who have a vision for a greener future.
As the result of the pandemic, estimates suggest that hospital trusts across the UK have been using a combined 10 million PPE items a day between them, the majority of which are single-use plastic, highlighting the scale of the problem.
The device to recycle disposable plastic PPE created by TCG at source was one of the first in the world to be created. It re-engineers an average of 24 tonnes of polypropylene waste each year per unit. The device works by heating polypropylene plastic up to 350 °C in 20-kg batches and then thermally compacting it into rectangular blocks that can be converted into pellets to make new plastic products.
The blocks produced from the melting process are collected by TCG and sent onto its various collaborators to create a range of new items. These products can be sent back to the hospital trusts to use as medical waste bins, creating a sustainable circular recycling chain.
According to TCG calculations for every 10,000 kg of waste sent to its plants, hospital trusts will save 7,500 kg of carbon emissions, equivalent to a saving of 75% on their current production. Therefore, in addition to reducing disposable plastic waste, innovative technology will contribute significantly to reducing carbon emissions.
Thomas Davison-Sebry, Chief Sustainability Officer at Thermal Compaction Group, said: “The technologies and solutions that we’re working on will mean that single-use plastic does need not be single-use in the future. As well as using the blocks from the Sterimelt to make hospital bins, we’re working on developing the technology to be able to 3D print items such as arm casts and therefore reduce the gypsum waste that is now banned from landfill sites in the UK. The responses we’ve had from not only the UK, but across the world including Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the US has been phenomenal. We know the need for this technology is out there, so we’re excited to continue growing and supplying our machine internationally.”
Although their plants work for most polypropylene products, there are some elements for a medical-grade face mask that cannot be recycled in this way. To help improve sustainability, TCG has been advising the companies it is working with to modify the PPE they are using, so as to make them fully recyclable.