Written By Diya Barmecha (Grade 8)
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted various countries over the course of the past 1.5 years. It has been infiltrating our world since December 2019. Slowly but surely, the virus reached India. India tried its best to contain this unexpected virus with lockdowns, restrictions, masks and rules. However, the situation worsened. But, we stood unprepared with everyone wearing disposable masks and PPE kits (Personal Protective Equipment), the situation was put into control. However, a new problem arose.
During the pandemic, India has produced 101 metric tonnes of biomedical waste daily. This waste consisted of all the masks and PPE kits that kept us safe. The irony of the situation is that the same thing that was helping keep us safe is now destroying the very planet we call home.
Ever since plastic was invented by Alexander Parked in 1862, we have used it for so many things from automobiles to packaged foods. This simple composition now sits in each and every one of our houses. However, plastic is not biodegradable and it takes a few hundred years to decompose. Waste plastic starts piling up and pollution increases. Plastic was a problem even before COVID, but now the excess waste produced by used masks and other protective equipment has worsened the issue.
This problem aroused a young entrepreneur now known as the Recycle Man of India. Binish Desai came on the pages of the newspapers early in 2010 for designing a P-Block that converted industrial paper and gum waste into sturdy bricks. In April 2020, when the initial lockdown began, a young 27-year-old Desai started experimenting with the waste produced. He said, “Initially, everyone was talking about how the lockdown had helped reduce pollution, but I could only think of what the rising demand for PPE suits and masks would lead to.”
It takes a great deal of observation to find a problem when it comes from a solution to another conflict. A young entrepreneur started studying the material on the mask and after mixing it with special binders in his lab he was able to make a brick. He performed many experiments from which he found that the bricks were water-resistant and fireproof.
He stationed eco-bins in hospitals and other public spaces across Surat and Valsad to collect PPE waste. The waste was quarantined for 72 hours before it was disinfected, shredded and added to industrial paper waste. The mixture was set into a mould to make bricks. The bricks are dried for 3 days until they are finally ready. Desai and the team have worked with 106 types of waste such as paper surplus, coffee waste and more to create more than 100 products like this including toilets, blocks, etc.
The impact of this on our future is huge. If every face mask we ever discard is utilised in this way, the plastic waste and overall waste in our country can reduce the carbon footprint we have on the world. This pandemic has forced people to be pushed far apart but it is also the time for sympathy, teamwork and understanding. With the help of everybody in the community, Desai was able to create a system where he can collect the waste of others and put it to use. This system he has in place is an embodiment of the quote that one man’s trash is another’s treasure.
Featured Image Courtesy – Femina.in