Innovation partnership looks to recycle facemasks into new products for the NHS
Millions of items of PPE discarded in hospitals could be recycled into new products for the NHS like operating theatre clogs, plastic bed pans, medical scrubs and even prosthetic finger joints.
The innovative development in sustainability is thanks to a pioneering partnership between Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Imperial Health Charity and PPE manufacturer Globus Group.
Every year 6 billion items of PPE (equivalent to 28,000 tonnes), including around 1 billion masks, are distributed in the NHS for use by doctors, nurses and hospital staff in the UK, the majority of which is not recycled.
Plastic waste has increased dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic as PPE usage has soared. At Imperial College Healthcare over 9.8 million Type IIR surgical face masks, were used across a 13 month period during the pandemic.
Imperial College Healthcare and Globus will look into ways to tackle this problem by bringing together the Trust’s healthcare expertise and resources with Globus’ 25-year heritage of innovation in manufacturing. It builds on both organisations’ shared commitment to sustainable waste reduction and the net zero agenda.
This new collaboration – which will run for 18 months – will see the Trust and Globus develop a new pilot scheme to explore how to efficiently collect used single-use plastic facemasks across the Trust’s five hospital sites. It will also evaluate the potential for the plastic materials to then be processed and the raw materials recycled and repurposed into new products for use in the NHS. This could include products like operating theatre clogs, plastic bed pans, disposable syringes and even prosthetic finger joints.
The project is co-funded by Imperial Health Charity, which provides grant funding to support initiatives at the Trust, and Globus Group, with the long-term aspiration of scaling up circular economy initiatives across the Trust’s hospitals and eventually rolling it out to tackle waste across the rest of the NHS.
Dr Bob Klaber, Director of Strategy, Research & Innovation at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust said:
“This partnership with Globus Group is one of the first to address the growing issue of plastic waste in hospitals across the NHS, arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. With increased PPE usage becoming the new normal in hospital settings, managing waste is a problem that isn’t going away. It’s more important than ever that across healthcare we’re doing everything we can to reduce our environmental impact.
“The project will explore the feasibility of efficiently collecting and recycling masks used in our hospitals. If the proof of concept can be demonstrated and shown to be effective then the model could be adopted more widely.”
Globus Group CEO Haraldur Agustsson said:
“As a longstanding and trusted manufacturing partner to the NHS, we’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder with colleagues to deliver the sustainable, net zero future we all want to see. Innovation is baked into the Globus DNA and we’re proud that this collaboration marks another positive step in the growing issue of PPE waste. Sustainability, environmentally green materials and recycling projects to deliver a circular economy approach sit at the heart of Globus’ future strategy and we’re proud to be working with Imperial on this project.”
The new partnership is the latest step in both organisations’ deep commitment to delivering a green future. Imperial College Healthcare launched its Green Plan last year which set ambitious targets to reduce waste and achieve net zero carbon in line with the wider NHS Net Zero 2045 target.