In a conversation with MEDICA-tradefair.com, Dr. Alexander Hofmann, Head of Department Recycling Management at Fraunhofer UMSICHT, talks about the objective of the pilot project and explains how the concept can be advanced to present a sustainable option for the medical sector. After all, even post-pandemic, the healthcare industry will continue to generate tons of waste from single-use disposables.
Dr. Hofmann, Fraunhofer teamed up with SABIC and project initiator Procter & Gamble (P&G) to demonstrate the feasibility of closed-loop recycling of single-use face masks. How does the process work?
Dr. Alexander Hofmann: Procter & Gamble collected used face masks worn by its employees and sent them over to our Institute. We used pyrolysis to convert the masks to oil. That means we thermochemically converted the masks at around 650 degrees Celsius in the absence of oxygen. This process produces -among other things - pyrolysis oil.
The benefit of this process is that the high temperatures will also destroy any biogenic material such as pathogens, residual pollutants, etc.
We subsequently sent the recovered pyrolysis oil to SABIC. The company used it as feedstock for its processes and produced polypropylene, another plastic that is needed to make masks.