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Single-use PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) worn as Covid-19 protection has created a large amount of waste. Researchers suggest that one effective way of dealing with this waste is to convert it into fuel.

Due to the Covid pandemic, it is estimated that 2.4 billion single-use face masks are thrown away each day. Many face masks, gloves and gowns contain plastics and polymers, which do not break down when disposed of, creating environmental pollution that affects humans and animals. The polymers used in many PPE items also have a high oil content. Pyrolysis technology is a way of converting this oil into content into useable fuel.

A study in 2022 published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Review detailed a Covid-19 waste management system that includes a pyrolysis technology. In the USA, the Environmental Protection Agency is gathering data on the technology. The development of pyrolysis technology is in its preliminary stages, and it is not clear whether it can be done on a large scale to become an effective solution to PPE waste.

Researchers are looking into other ways of reducing PPE waste and finding effective solutions on how to deal with it.

Until large-scale ways of tackling the PPE waste issue are found, organisations can learn how to dispose of waste better. Some recycling centres extract materials from PPE for use in other products. Many types of PPE can be disinfected and used more than once. Used PPE should be placed in separate containers for safer disposal.

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