Hospital face masks could be recycled in innovative sustainability project

03 May 2022

Hospital face masks could be recycled in innovative sustainability project
Millions of items of PPE discarded in hospitals could be recycled into new products for use in the NHS as part of an innovative new sustainability project funded by Imperial Health Charity.

Every year 6 billion pieces of personal protective equipment - that's around 28,000 tonnes - are distributed across the NHS for doctors, nurses and hospital staff to use.

Currently, the majority of these items are not recycled - and plastic waste has increased dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic as PPE usage has soared.

To help tackle the problem, experts at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust have teamed up with PPE manufacturer Globus Group. As part of a pilot project, the Trust and Globus will work together to explore ways to efficiently collect used single-use plastic face masks across the Trust's five hospitals.

The project will also find out whether the raw materials from the masks could be recycled into new products, such as operating theatre clogs, plastic bed plans, disposable syringes and even prosthetic finger joints.

"With increased PPE usage in hospitals, managing waste is a problem that isn't going away. It's more important than ever that we're doing everything we can to reduce our environmental impact."

Dr Bob Klaber, Director of Strategy, Research and Innovation

"This partnership is one of the first to address the growing issue of plastic waste in hospitals across the NHS, arising from the Covid-19 pandemic," said Dr Bob Klaber, Director of Strategy, Research and Innovation at the Trust.

"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."

We're proud to be funding the project through our Innovate at Imperial grants programme over the next 18 months. The project will support the Trust's ambitious targets to reduce waste and achieve net zero carbon in line with the wider NHS by 2045.

Are you a member of staff at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust? Do you have an idea for an innovative project to improve patient care? You can apply for funding to support your project through our Innovate at Imperial grants programme. Find out more here.