Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a prominent medical waste generated during the pandemic and may continue to accumulate in the post-pandemic era. It is the need of the hour to devise novel and sustainable ways for its disposal without harming the environment. Chemical Engineers play a very important role in the recycling of plastics as they can devise methods for converting those into useful products. PPE kits are prepared from non-woven polypropylene (PP) fibres. PP is a thermoplastic material and is capable of undergoing several heating and cooling cycles, unlike thermosetting plastics. Of late, the use of plastics in the construction sector (along with sand and aggregates) is on the rise since they possess excellent binding characteristics and thereby increase the service life of the products. The objective of the present work is to effectively combine shredded PPE waste and different types of sand by a special theme-mechanical method. The novel part of the work is that the use of cement is avoided and the bonding of the other ingredients is achieved during the solidification of the molten plastic. The composite materials thus obtained are converted into tiles, blocks and panels in the construction sector. The salient properties like tensile, compression and flexural strengths of the prepared composites are compared with the existing construction materials. Durability properties such as acid resistance and moisture absorption are studied to validate the efficacy of the composite in the construction sector. It is observed that the PPE waste-sand composite displays superior performance in compression, tension and flexure in comparison with the existing construction materials like mud bricks and cement blocks. The water absorption and acid degradation are minimal, as a result, its strength is not impacted after exposure to such adverse conditions. The thermal conductivity of the composite is found to be less compared to the conventional concrete which makes it an ideal choice in tropical areas as thermal insulation panels. Moving forward, this study is expected to set a new sustainable approach to utilize biomedical plastics waste to substitute cement-based construction materials and aid a negative carbon cycle.
Effective utilization of PPE biomedical waste in the construction sector
A major challenge the COVID-19 pandemic has posed to society is the safe disposal of enormous quantities of biomedical waste generated.