Date: 18 February 2021

The disposable face mask waste is a new problem in the society amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in the household level. The team of researchers from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) is figuring out the solution to the matter by recycling disposable masks into plastic pellets.

"Many people are not aware that disposable face masks are made from plastic," said head researcher Albar Hanif Dawam Abdullah on Wednesday, February 17.

FTIR and DSC analysis shows that disposable face masks are mostly made from polypropylene (pp) that has a 163-169 degrees celsius melting point, which makes it able to be recycled.

The three-member core team from LIPI had first tested recycling the disposable masks by the end of 2020 through a number of sterilization methods and decided on the most viable solution that could be replicated by the general public.

"The technique used [in recycling the face masks] is not through heating it but adding a solution made from Sodium hypochlorite," Dawam explained. The solution is commonly found in cloth bleach products.

Once the masks are sterilized, they are dried again and cut into small pieces before placing the cuts into an extruder machine to create a final product taking form as recyclable plastic pellets. These pellets are then able to be used again as it is the raw material used in the industries of plastic and textile.