Together with the municipality of Concepción and the company Softys, the university seeks to take the collection of mouth covers to an industrial scale, giving them a new use by obtaining their thermoplastic raw material. It is expected to collect one ton per month.

“The waste materials left by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as gloves and masks, represent a threat to the environment that must be confronted immediately”, said the rector of the Universidad de Concepción (UdeC), Carlos Saavedra, in the framework of the launching of the pilot recycling program: “Reset the mask”.

The initiative has been carried out since 2020 by the Technological Development Unit (UDT) of the UdeC, who developed a technology and management system to recycle disposable face masks, transforming them into thermoplastic raw material, which can be injected into various types of products, such as flower pots, for example, to date they have only been able to process 300,000 mouth covers.

And, considering that the use of the material has become massive as a result of the pandemic, it became necessary to scale it up industrially. To this end, the UdeC joined forces with the municipality of Concepción and the company Softys to obtain, as far as possible, one ton of masks per month.

Containers in the city

Ten collection points were installed in the city, seven of them in educational establishments, such as: the Brasil School and the Enrique Molina High School; and three in strategic points, one in the University Forum and the other two in the municipality of Concepción and the regional governor’s office.

“This program will contribute with solutions in the field of circular economy, facing the negative effects of the pandemic and, at the same time, reinforces our institutional commitment to the conservation of the environment and its recovery.

Along these lines, the director of the UDT, Alex Berg, commented that “we want to demonstrate that in practice, the recycling of masks is feasible from a sanitary, technical and economic point of view, especially as it is a pioneering technique in Chile”.

He added that “this recycling will be done in our facilities in the Coronel industrial park, where we basically take laboratory solutions to an industrial level, where we have small production plants, where we can undertake this challenge which is to put into practice the recycling of this material, transforming it into pellets which are then converted into multiple products, especially considering that in Chile only 8% of plastics are recycled”.

As for the municipal contribution, Mayor Álvaro Ortiz explained that the collaborative work will allow to generate a culture in the citizenship, to give a use to the tons of masks that arrive to the dumpsters of the houses, as well as to the rivers, seas and green areas.

“We are calling to create awareness that these masks, because once they are no longer used they can cause terrible damage to the ecosystem, therefore, we need them to be left in the established points, in order to take care of the environment, because climate change is already a reality”, emphasized Ortiz, since depending on the response of the citizenship, they do not rule out putting more collection points in Concepción.

From Softys, general manager Sebastián Reyes complemented that “innovation is the engine that moves us to improve the quality of life of people, so this project contributes to improve the environment (…) we hope that this pilot is successful to be able to replicate it in other communes of the country”.

Source: Concepción Newspaper