Eco-minded Warsaw uni students create world’s first solution for recycling face masks
Students from Warsaw University have been awarded the James Dyson award for designing the world’s first complete solution for the recycling of used 3-ply disposable face masks.
Invented along with students from the University of Edinburgh, the XTRUDE ZERO machine disinfects the face masks before turning them into a reusable multipurpose polymer pellet that can be subsequently used again in the manufacture of a wide range of plastic parts.
Having set up an operation carrying out 3D printing of face shields for medical staff during the pandemic, the student inventors soon became concerned with how much plastic waste was being produced during the production process and were quickly struck by how much waste was also being generated from disposable 3-ply face masks.
Discovering that an estimated 30 billion masks have been being sent to landfill every month since March 2020, and aware that 3-ply disposable masks contain a polymer material which producers said can be easily recycled, the group’s idea was born from brainstorming ideas in their garage.
The used masks are inserted into XTRUDE ZERO via a conveyor belt, where the welded sides are cut off and each layer of the mask is stripped one by one, as each is made of a different plastic.
The layers are then shredded and heated, creating a continuous strand of filament which is cut into pellets, and each pellet is then passed through UV light for disinfection and quarantined to maximise protection against Covid 19.
The XTRUDE ZERO machine, which is intended to be publicly accessible and for use in places such as shopping centres and schools is based on widely-used technology, similar to that used in vending machines, making it easy to manufacture.
Mike Ryan and Aleksander Trakul, two of the machine’s inventors said: “A key feature of our invention is its modularity, thanks to which it can be easily scaled up for a large operation, in this way maximising the number of surgical masks recycled.”
The students now hope to develop a future plan for how to manufacture XTRUDE and incorporate it into society in public places.
The James Dyson Award is an international student design competition which rewards innovative designs that solve a problem.
The Polish edition of the James Dyson Award was held in Poland for the first time this year at the end of August 2021.
The inventors of XTRUDE ZERO have received a cash prize of 10,000 PLN and will now go through to the international finals of the award.