A new technology being developed in Sydney aims to address the problem of waste resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic by recycling used personal protective equipment (PPE) into raw materials for 3D printing.
Collaboration between 3RD Axis, an additive manufacturing company, and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) has resulted in a process that can extract discarded PPE materials and use them as raw materials in 3D printing. Recycled PPE could have a new life as components like water tanks, fence posts, machine parts, and even aircraft parts.
“Wearing PPE is now part of our daily lives, whether we put on a mask to get on the bus or to visit the doctor, it is part of living with Covid. But of course it also creates the problem of increased landfilling and waste,” said Andrew Cooper, CEO of 3rd Axis.
“What we are developing, together with the ANSTO partners, is a useful solution to this growing problem. Our goal is to use raw materials from discarded or expired PPE, such as sterile wraps and masks, as raw materials to produce the filament, or ‘food,’ for 3D printers.”
Medical waste industry partners are working with 3RD Axis to simplify collection and separation processes that can be implemented in hospitals, medical centers, hotels and emergency services vehicles.
The collected PPE goes through a multi-stage decontamination process before it is melted at high temperatures and turned into a liquid form to create a thermoplastic filament. The aim of the project is to produce sustainable products and reduce waste from landfills.
“The challenge is to reuse materials from the single-use economy and transform them into durable manufactured items that have a longer life cycle like the next product,” said Gerry Triani, ANSTO leader in Materials Development and Characterization.
“The objective of the game is twofold; to reduce landfill and also create a product that is beneficial to both the environment and the economy.”
no more waste
Globally, up to 1.6 million tons of plastic waste is generated every day due to the pandemic, and 3.4 billion single-use face masks are thrown away daily. The technology being developed by 3RD Axis also opens up the possibility of recycling other plastics and materials.
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