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One part face mask, 99 parts road – the latest in waste reduction technology

 

With more than 6.8 billion face masks hitting the world’s landfills each day, the idea of building them into our roads as a means of reducing waste has been developed on home soil.

Professor Jie Li of Melbourne’s RMIT University gathered his team to research the viability of using shredded face masks in conjunction with recycled concrete aggregate (RCA).

The results showed that a ratio of one per cent shredded face mask to 99 per cent RCA produced an optimal strength and cohesion between the materials.

Professor Li said while the resultant mixture would only be strong enough for light roads, many millions of tonnes of waste could still be saved from entering our environment.

“The mixture used in our study does not have any binder, so, it can be mainly used for a low traffic volume road,” Li said.

“Usually, the recycled materials are not for major highways and heavy vehicles, as such roads need to have very high strengths.

“To make just one kilometre of a two-lane road, it would use about three million masks, preventing 93 tonnes of waste from going to landfill.”

Not only does it save on material wastage, but the use of purely recycled materials would allow quarries to maintain their virgin material reserves for larger projects.

Li said the project was funded by an Indigenous group, but still requires further aid in continuing with the endeavour.

“This research is partially funded by the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research,” Li said.

“More research is needed to be conducted for future developments and field trials. We are looking for industry support. We are also going to apply for the Sustainability Victoria grant.”

The next steps in the project involve the building of a prototype in Victoria.

“It’ll depend on who our partner is,” Professor Li said. “We hope to build a low traffic volume road in a local council area if we get support from local government and industry.”