Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT, SABIC and Procter & Gamble (P&G) would collaborate in an innovative circular economy pilot project aimed at closed-loop recycling of single-use facemasks.
Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT,
SABIC and Procter & Gamble (P&G) will collaborate in an innovative
circular economy pilot project aimed at closed-loop recycling of single-use
facemasks. Due to COVID-19, use of billions of disposable facemasks is raising
environmental concerns as they are discarded in public spaces, parks, open-air
venues and beaches. Apart from the challenge of dealing with such huge volumes
of essential personal healthcare items in a sustainable way, simply throwing
the used masks away for disposal on landfill sites or in incineration plants
represents a loss of valuable feedstock for new material.
â€œRecognizing the challenge, we
set out to explore how used facemasks could potentially be returned into the
value chain of new facemask production,â€ says Dr. Peter Dziezok, Director
R&D Open Innovation at P&G. â€œBut creating a true circular solution from
both a sustainable and an economically feasible perspective takes partners.
Therefore, we teamed up with Fraunhofer CCPE and Fraunhofer UMSICHTâ€™s expert
scientists and SABICâ€™s T&I specialists to investigate potential solutions.â€
As part of the pilot, P&G
collected used facemasks worn by employees or given to visitors at its
manufacturing and research sites in Germany. To help demonstrate a potential
step change in this scenario, special collection bins were set up, and the
collected used masks were sent to Fraunhofer for further processing in a
dedicated research pyrolysis plant.
The pyrolysis oil was then sent
to SABIC to be used as feedstock for the production of new PP resin. Finally,
to close the loop, the PP polymer was supplied to P&G, where it was
processed into non-woven fibres material.
The entire closed loop pilot
project from facemask collection to production was developed and implemented
within only seven months. The transferability of advanced recycling to other
feedstocks and chemical products is being further researched at Fraunhofer
According to Mark Vester,
Global Circular Economy Leader, SABIC, the high-quality circular PP polymer
obtained in this pilot clearly demonstrates that closed-loop recycling is
Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental,
Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT is a pioneer in sustainable energy and
raw materials management.
Source: Fraunhofer Press Release
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