The pandemic has changed our lives in ways that were impossible to imagine. And something that is here to stay is probably the masks, that complement that accompanies us every time we leave the house and whose use is mandatory in most situations. We are already seeing the added problem, as their short life (practically disposable) causes them to quickly become waste. A very interesting answer would be make roads with your recycling.
It is an idea put forward by researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), who believe that these disposable surgical masks have the potential to become a building material. In fact, it is calculated that to make one kilometer of a two-lane road it would take around three million masks and with its recycling, 93 tons of waste would stop being thrown into the landfill. That would help reduce the environmental impact, as an estimated 6.8 billion masks are used worldwide each day.
To carry it out, they have tried putting together the pieces of the crushed masks with processed construction debris. The result has been surprising, since the masks provide rigidity and resistance to the final material, which can be used in the base layers of roads. Normally, floors have four layers, all of which have to be resistant and also with some degree of flexibility. Processed construction debris is typically used on its own in the first three.
But with the use of masks in the 1% mix a material is obtained that maintains the properties of resistance, deformation and dynamics; while forgetting about the problem of getting rid of them. Those used masks they would have to be disinfected before being part of this process, but it has been proven that spraying them with an antiseptic solution and then heating them in the microwave for one minute eliminates the virus to 99.9%, so it would not be too complex to achieve.
Building roads by recycling masks could be a reality and would solve some problems if the project continues to be committed. There is even talk of a future with other applications in the construction.