India produces around 101 Metric Tonnes per day (MT/day) of COVID-19 related biomedical waste, as per a report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in the National Green Tribunal. This medical waste is in addition to the biomedical waste of around 609 MT/day that the country generates.
While the menace of medical waste is piling up amid the COVID-19 pandemic, all is not lost; there are people fighting against this menace.
Binish Desai, popularly known as the ‘Recycle Man of India,’ is fighting it by creating eco-friendly bricks out of PPE kits and masks made from non-woven fabric.
In April, the environmentalist and innovator started collecting and studying PPE kits in his home laboratory to finally bring out the final version of the bricks called P-Block 2.0. More than half of the bricks are made from shredded PPE and face mask material.
“Fifty-two per cent of the entire product is PPE and face mask material and the rest is paper waste, which we have been using in the previous bricks we were manufacturing. Hence, these bricks are called 2.0,” Desai explains.
Earlier in 2010, Desai had come under the limelight for his innovative P-Block bricks, which were made from waste produced from industrial paper and gum waste.
Desai explains that P-Block 2.0 bricks are better in size and strength, while the cost remains the same.
To make these bricks, Desai says, “we will need 7 kg of biomedical waste per square foot”. So, Desai’s team will be placing ‘Eco Bins’ in different locations such as hospitals, police stations, and bus stops. These eco-bins will collect the PPE and face masks and kickstart the manufacturing process of the bricks.
Once the bin is full, as per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines, they will keep the material in isolation for 72 hours before they take it to their premise. “It is then mixed with the binder and paper waste. It will be then molded in the desired molds and naturally dried. Once ready, we will be able to start selling the products,” Desai says.
Since they are working with medical waste, Desai gives paramount importance to safety.
“Apart from keeping the material for 72 hours in isolation, once it reaches our premise, it goes through two times of bath in a disinfectant before we touch it,” Desai says.
Further, after mixing with the binder, they will also keep it for drying for 24 hours. Production of P-Block 2.0 is said to start from the second week of September.
Desai and his team have worked with 100 different types of waste such as metal waste, textile waste, coffee waste, and paper waste, among others.
So how did this all begin? When Desai was 11-years-old, he found a chewing gum stuck to his pants when he was in class. While he wrapped it in a piece of paper to throw it away later, he forgot all about it. At the end of the day, he found that the gum and paper had glued together and hardened into a block. This, in many ways, was the inspiration for the bricks.