Globus Group & Heriot-Watt Uni create sustainable PPE

Globus Group & Heriot-Watt University have teamed up to create sustainable PPE for hospitals - as volume of plastic waste caused by COVID-19 grows

Up to 8.4m tonnes of plastic waste has been created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lifesaving PPE equipment, such as face masks, end up in a landfill site - or worse, the ocean. 

However, now the UK’s biggest PPE manufacturer, Globus Group, has teamed up with Heriot-Watt University - and that unsustainable figure is about to decrease. 


Giving plastic hospital waste a sustainable second life 

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project, will turn PPE waste into a secondary raw material - pyrolysis oil. This can be refined into new PPE products and even fuels.

Over the pandemic, Globus Group has made 1bn medical masks and 300mn FFP respirators, used by healthcare trusts in the UK. Between them, Globus Group and Heriot-Watt University will develop a fresh repurposing process for discarded PPE, designed to be energy-efficient.

Globus Group’s thermal heating technology can heat and then compact the plastic polypropylene into large, reusable blocks, which are then collected and given a second life.


Embedding sustainable materials and technologies in future healthcare strategies is essential 

“We will be working closely with our commercial partner Globus Group to develop a bespoke process that will be applied to PPE plastic waste that cannot currently be recycled mechanically due to various technological, economic or ecological reasons. As the world strives to reduce its landfill, ocean impact and carbon emissions, this project is a significant step towards addressing the increased waste generated during the global pandemic,” said Dr Aimaro Sanna, an assistant professor in Chemical and Process Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, who is something of an expert in waste material. “Initially the research will help to recycle over 100 tonnes of product generated by the manufacturing process every year – the equivalent to 10kg of waste every hour. However, our hope is that this new process will be adopted more widely. Many countries have been unable to process their plastic waste PPE properly. Our ground-breaking research aims to address these challenges providing an exemplar technique for application globally.” 

“Placing environmentally green materials, technology, sustainability and recycling projects at the heart of our future strategy and investment is now key to our goals moving forward,” agreed Haraldur Agustsson, CEO of Globus Group.

“As well as reducing our carbon footprint through European manufacturing, we are leading the way by investing in innovative production processes that are designed to reduce the use of single-use plastics. This machine is a fundamental part of our process to re-purpose and utilise waste material to achieve a circular economy,” said Pete Lee, Head of Quality at Globus Group. “We acknowledge our responsibility to the NHS, supporting it in delivering a ‘net zero’ sustainable future, and the long-term welfare of future generations. This technology will be a real game changer in the way we tackle our PPE waste.” 

“The commitment to provide a circular solution for 100 tonnes of PPE per year is hugely ambitious and is exactly the sort of innovation step we seek to support through our Knowledge Transfer Partnerships,” echoed Jim Berryman, Knowledge Transfer Advisor, Innovate UK KTN. “Working in collaboration with the Alpha Solway factory and Heriot-Watt University will see us applying research expertise to address a significant environmental challenge, helping deliver the Globus Group’s net zero ambitions.”  

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