Gowns, masks, gloves: used corona protective clothing makes concrete more stable

It was already clear at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic: The necessary protective equipment will result in tons of additional waste.

Gowns, masks, gloves: used corona protective clothing makes concrete more stable

It was already clear at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic: The necessary protective equipment will result in tons of additional waste. But how else could worn masks, disposable gowns and protective gloves be used? A team from Australia finds what they are looking for in building materials.

Various protective clothing added to concrete can improve the properties of the building material. A research team found this out in three different feasibility studies. For the investigations, the researchers deliberately used corona protection that had already been used and discarded, which accumulated in heaps during the pandemic. "We urgently need intelligent solutions for the ever-growing pile of waste generated by Covid-19 - this challenge will remain even after the pandemic has passed," said Shannon Kilmartin-Lynch of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, RMIT University for short a message.

The researchers therefore used several different parameters to test how the addition of worn rubber gloves, face masks and disposable gowns affect the properties of structural concrete. To make their investigation as realistic as possible, the team used actually used protective gowns. For safety reasons, these were first stored in an airtight container for 96 hours, then washed, dried and only then cut into pieces 5 millimeters wide and 20 millimeters long.

In a next step, the strips, which consist of 55 percent polypropylene (PP) and 45 percent polyethylene (PE), were mixed into the concrete in several passes with dosages of 0.01, 0.02 and 0.03 percent by volume and its properties tested. In doing so, the team saw that the properties improved in all tested properties. The research team achieved the best results with a plastic content of 0.03 percent. With this proportion of shredded gowns, resistance to bending stress increased by 21 percent, compression resistance increased by 15 percent, and elasticity increased by 12 percent compared to the control concrete. The formation of micro-cracks in the concrete could also be prevented by adding shredded protective clothing.

The researchers also obtained similar results when adding shredded disposable gloves and masks, which had been tested in previous studies. The researchers conclude that the research results have brought a circular economy approach to the challenges of dealing with waste in the healthcare sector. The current test results were published in the specialist journal "Case Studies in Construction Materials".

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