A plastic recycling workspace based out of Dresden, Germany is transforming used, disposable face masks into screwdriver sets.
Johannplasto, founded by Thomas Peterberns in 2021, has been on a mission to reduce the enormous amount of PPE waste generated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is estimated that around 7,200 tons of medical waste are disposed of every day across the world, among which a majority are disposable masks. These masks are often made from harmful single-use plastics like polypropylene, which can take over hundreds of years to disintegrate and break down.
Realising the negative impact created by the disposal of PPE waste, Peterberns, a mechanical engineer, took the initiative to recycle the polypropylene surgical masks to make useful screwdriver sets out of them.
“When we produce something from plastic, it’s best when it’s a useful and long-life product,” Peterberns said in an interview with Now This.
The initiative, named after Johannstadt, a neighbourhood in Germany, is part of the ‘precious plastic’ network, which works with communities to resolve local plastic problems. This network exchanges ideas and construction plans for plastic processing internationally.
At Johannplasto, Peterberns uses different methods to recycle plastic masks and builds machines to transform them into useful screwdriver sets.
“My mission is to recycle as much plastic waste as I can to prevent it from ending up in such a quantity that it’s difficult to sort,” he told Now This in an interview.
The screwdriver set produced by Johannplasto includes a case with assorted bits, as well as a screwdriver. In order to create the screwdriver kits, the venture receives around 50-200 masks per week from a local school through Johannplasto’s collection point, a minimum of 10 days after use. The 10-day gap is to make sure that it is free of the COVID-19 virus.
Later, the masks are sorted and separated, and only 100% polypropylene masks are used for the process. After washing and drying the masks, the bands from the sides and the wire from the nose are removed.
Then, a mould is placed under an injection machine in which the washed masks are folded and inserted. The injection machine is heated to 180 degrees and the plastic masks are melted and injected into the mould. Next, the screwdriver handle is created using the same process, but with a different mould. When the moulded plastic cools, the bits and sockets are inserted into the case.
Each screwdriver set can be re-recycled again.
As of now, Johannplasto has a goal of recycling 1,000 such masks every month. Till now, the initiative has produced around 100 such screwdriver sets, which are being sold through their website or on Etsy.
Apart from recycling disposable masks, Peterberns also makes different products using other forms of plastics. For this, he has set up a collection point outside the workspace’s studio in Dresden, where locals can dispose of their plastic waste. Now they are planning to set up more such collection points in different parts of the city.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)