Coordinated Research Project: Face masks recycling with the use of radiation technologies
The aim of this project proposal is to determine an alternative to classical approaches of polymer plastic waste recycling and/or disposal safe for the environment. Single use personal protective equipment (PPE), made of different polymer materials, is unavoidable in medical care worldwide. During COVID-19 pandemic, the use of PPE has highly increased, especially the use of surgical face masks (SFM) made mostly of polypropylene (PP). A major problem with the used PPE from hospitals is their contamination and at the moment the used PPE from hospitals in Croatia is incinerated. Sterilization of the contaminated PPE opens the possibility of reuse. Radiation technology is considered as a green technology, and if used for sterilization of the contaminated waste it is favorable for the environment opposed to incineration.
In the proposed project single used SFM will be irradiated with gamma radiation and possible change in physical-chemical properties of PP modification due to the different irradiation conditions will be investigated. The SFM after irradiation will have to be shredded and incorporated in bitumen. The optimal size and content of SFM for obtaining bitumen with improved properties necessary for construction of roads pavements will be determined. The expected results are not just important for the disposal of SFM safe for the environment, but also in a sense, for the possible improvement and cost reduction of common pavement materials.