Roads could soon be made of FACE MASKS: Scientists engineer stronger concrete material using recycled surgical face coverings
- Around 6.8 billion disposable face masks are used globally every day
- Researchers found a way to mix decontaminated masks with rubble for roads
- Found 1% face masks to 99% rubble meets civil engineering standards
- The addition of the plastic fibres from masks also increase strength and stiffness
- Researchers hope the discover can help remove some masks from landfill as it takes 3million masks to create a 1-km long stretch of road
Experts from Australia have devised a way to recycle used face masks into road materials, offering a solution to the environmental scourge of PPE waste and litter.
Around 6.8 billion disposable face masks are used globally every day as people don the coverings to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
A study from RMIT in Melbourne found mixing one per cent of diced masks with 99 per cent RCA — a common form of rubble — meets civil engineering standards.
A one kilometre (0.62 mils) stretch of road made with this recipe requires three million masks, equivalent to saving 93 tonnes of landfill waste.
Scroll down for video
Pictured, a sample of the road material made with one per cent fibres from face masks. Researchers found the material meets civil engineering standards and also improves stiffness and strength
The technique not only prevents waste but also makes the material stiffer and stronger, the researchers found.
Roads and pavements require four layers in their construction: subgrade, base, sub-base and asphalt on top.
Each layer has to be both strong but flexible to absorb the pressure and weight of the traffic above without cracking.
The hybrid material blends recycled concrete aggregate (RAC) (left) and small strips of shredded disposable face masks (right)
Face masks reduce our ability to recognise someone by 15%
Face masks do make it harder to identify people because they cover the nose and mouth – key features the human brain uses to put names to faces.
A study from Israel revealed wearing a mask reduces a person’s ability to recognise people by 15 per cent.
However, people are able to still identify close friends or family due to the familiarity of their eyes and other parts of the face not covered by masks.
Masks have become ubiquitous around the world in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and as people try to avoid catching and spreading Covid-19.
The study, published this week in the journal Science of the Total Environment, reveals the RCA/face mask combination was ideal for the bottom three.
Report author Dr Mohammad Saberian said: ‘This initial study looked at the feasibility of recycling single-use face masks into roads and we were thrilled to find it not only works, but also delivers real engineering benefits.
‘We hope this opens the door for further research, to work through ways of managing health and safety risks at scale and investigate whether other types of PPE would also be suitable for recycling.’
Tests found the mixture stood up to stress, resisted water and did not degrade or buckle.
The masks were decontaminated with a simple antiseptic spray followed by a minute in the microwave, which destroyed 99.9 per cent of virus particles.
Professor Jie Li, from the university’s school of engineering, said: ‘We know that even if these masks are disposed of properly, they will go to landfill or be incinerated.
‘The COVID-19 pandemic has not only created a global health and economic crisis, but has also had dramatic effects on the environment.
‘If we can bring circular economy thinking to this massive waste problem, we can develop the smart and sustainable solutions we need.’
Covid-19 medicines, PPE, tests and vaccines are being sold on the dark web for up to $1,400, study reveals
In-demand coronavirus items, such as face masks, medications and vaccines, are being flogged on dark web marketplaces, a new study reveals.
Opportunistic con-artists are also using the dark web to sell ventilators and guides on how to scam people during the pandemic.
Prices vary depending on item, with PPE and coronavirus-specific website names, like ‘covid-testing.in’ and ‘coronavintheworld.com’, being the cheapest at just $5.
But this increases to $33 for medicines, $250 for tests and ventilators costing up to $1,400.
Guides on scamming are being sold for $75, fake medical records for $130 and medical frauds — including fake vaccines — for around $275.
The first sham inoculations appeared for sale as early as March, despite the first legitimate vaccine not being approved until December.
The researchers say policymakers should use this data to investigate the risks covert marketplaces pose to public health, which they say is even more pertinent now considering the global vaccine rollout.
Pictured, the number of listings for items of PPE throughout 2020 on dark web marketplaces. PPE listings spiked in May when the pandemic began to ravage much of the world, including the UK and the US, the two nations with the largest number of imports and exports, and legal sources failed to keep up with soaring demand