NHS Test and Trace explores ‘recyclable’ Covid-19 tests

The minister of health says NHS Test and Trace is exploring alternatives made from “predominantly recyclable or biodegradable materials” to current Covid-19 testing equipment.

According to one study, more than eight million metric tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste has been generated globally (picture: Shutterstock)

Edward Argar, Conservative MP for Arnwood, also said the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) was “reviewing the potential” of reusable face masks in acute settings.

Mr Argar responded yesterday (25 January) to a question posed by Lib Dem MP Sarah Olney as to what his department was doing to improve the recyclability of Covid-19 testing equipment and used personal protective equipment (PPE).

Mr Argar said: “NHS Test and Trace is exploring alternatives to current test devices which are safe, effective and made of predominantly recyclable or biodegradable materials.

“We are reviewing the potential of reusable Type IIR masks in acute settings, using existing laundry services to reduce the need for single use products.

“These reusable Type IIR masks will be recycled into curtains, mattress covers or other products to contribute to the sustainable disposal of personal protective equipment and zero to landfill recycling programme.

“We plan to pilot reusable eye protection where the product can be recycled at the end of its life.”

Mr Argar added that the DHSC had already recycled 22 million visors to make plastic containers, used to store food items and which “will also be recyclable”.

Plastic waste

According to research published in the online journal PNAS in November 2021, more than eight million metric tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste has been generated globally.

Edward Argar is minister of health and Conservative MP for Arnwood (picture: UK Parliament)

More than 25,000 tons of this plastic waste has ended up in the world’s oceans, the researchers, Yiming Peng and Peipei Wu from Nanjing University in China, claim.

The research suggests most of the plastic is from medical waste generated by hospitals, “dwarfing” the contribution from PPE and online shopping packaging material.

Some waste management companies, such as North Yorkshire-based ReWorked, offers specialised recycling bins for PPE (see letsrecycle.com story).

In August 2021, Brighton and Hove became “the first city in the country” to install recycling bins for facemasks, gloves, and other PPE in public places, after joining forces with ReWorked.

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