Plasma degradation of contaminated PPE: an energy-efficient method to treat contaminated plastic waste

Mariano Marco Tobías, Michelle Åhlén, Ocean Cheung, David G. Bucknall, Martin R. S. McCoustra, Humphrey Hak Ping Yiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
43 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The use of PPE has drastically increased because of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic as disposable surgical face masks made from non-biodegradable polypropylene (PP) polymers have generated a significant amount of waste. In this work, a low-power plasma method has been used to degrade surgical masks. Several analytical techniques (gravimetric analysis, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), attenuated total reflection-infra-red spectroscopy (ATR-IR), x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), thermogravimetric analysis/differential scanning calorimetry (TGA/DSC) and wide-angle x-ray scattering (WAXS)) were used to evaluate the effects of plasma irradiation on mask samples. After 4 h of irradiation, an overall mass loss of 63 ± 8%, through oxidation followed by fragmentation, was observed on the non-woven 3-ply surgical mask, which is 20 times faster than degrading a bulk PP sample. Individual components of the mask also showed different degradation rates. Air plasma clearly represents an energy-efficient tool for treating contaminated PPE in an environmentally friendly approach.
Original languageEnglish
Article number33
Journalnpj Materials Degradation
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2023

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