There is no doubt that the spread of COVID-19 brought about changes that completely affected our lifestyle, including the frequent use of face masks in public spaces. However, the widespread use of this element has represented a threat to the environment.
The environmental impact generated by disposable masks is so great that during 2020 it was reported that more than 1,560 million of them were thrown into the oceans, a fact that unfortunately is expected to increase throughout 2021.
In addition to the oceans, landfills are another source where a large amount of discarded masks are concentrated.
This has led a group of researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, to take the initiative to generate a solution that would contribute to the recycling of these masks, converting them into road material to help reduce their polluting impact on the environment. How to recycle face masks for civil construction
To make this possible the team took the masks and shredded them, then mixed them with processed construction debris. In the end, a material suitable for road construction was obtained that successfully met civil engineering safety standards.
The team estimates that a quantity of 3 million recycled and shredded masks could provide enough material to pave one kilometer of a two-lane road.
This would prevent 93 million tons of disposable masks from ending up in landfills, helping to considerably reduce their accumulation in these sites.
To carry out their project, the team focused their attention on processed construction debris, which possesses the qualities to be used as a base layer for roads.
After integrating the shredded mastics into the construction material, the team found that they helped to improve its properties significantly. At the time of mixing, 1% shredded masks and 99% recycled concrete aggregate were used.