Engineers Suggest Greener recycling For Medical PPE Waste

How Engineers Propose Better Recycling for Protective Equipment


“Recycle Logo From Recycling Bin” by csatch is licensed under

By: Pedro Lopez, Journalist

Under the intensity of a continues pandemic, the world discovers ever-growing and seemingly never-ending waste of used masks, plastic face shields, and medical gloves. Cornell engineers now are offering solutions to sustainably reroute the discarded material.

A medium-temperature reaction called pyrolysis can reduce the plasticized medical-protection garbage back into its original form- such as chemicals and petroleum(a complex mixture of hydrocarbons) and then recycle it, perhaps into fuels, according to a new study.

The method does not involve landfill use.

Xiang Zhao, a doctoral student said “The scale of disposing used medical personal protective equipment (PPE) is enormous” he said. He’s a doctoral student and an author on the paper, “Fast pyrolysis method can replace PPE incineration or sending it to landfills which is what happens now”.11

Their framework- first focusing on New York state-propose collecting waste PPE from hospitals and medical centers, and send the PPE to pre-processing and decontamination facilities in New York or Suffolk counties. There it would be shredded sterilized (get rid of bacteria) and dehydrated to become small particles, and then it will be brought to an interrogated pyrolysis plant.

The medium-temperature pyrolysis ( it is about 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit) can deconstruct the plasticized gowns and gloves, which are derived from petroleum, into chemicals such as ethylene, butane, gasoline, bauxite, propene, diesel, light naphtha and sulfur.

Health care facilities around the world are creating a 7.5 pounds per person of PPE waste daily through COVID-19-associated services, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

One Hospital with 300 medical personnel could make more than a ton of medical garbage waste daily. That translates more than 400 tons of annual medical PPE waste in a single COVID-handling facility.

It is a treatment method with low green house gas emissions, it alleviates fossil fuel emission depletion and it saves a lot of polluting material from landfills.




(607) 255-7535