A researcher from Régine transforms disposable masks into building materials

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A Regina researcher transforms disposable masks into construction materials

Denise Stilling is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Regina.

A University of Regina recycling researcher is now tackling a big challenge: disposable face masks. For her, transforming these masks into useful materials represents an effective way to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Denise Stilling says recycling has always been a part of her life. I grew up on a farm, where they used rope and wire to fix things. Reusing is part of my DNA as a Saskatchewan farmer, she points out.

For several years, she has been experimenting with ways to recover waste, for example old tires or plastic bags, then transform them into various materials, including cobblestones.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and disposable masks, Denise Stilling has found her new challenge. They started covering sidewalks and finding their way into our waterways. That's when I turned to disposable masks.

Many disposable masks are made of a type of plastic that takes hundreds of #x27;years to deteriorate, according to the researcher. If we make sure that there is no contamination, it is a resource that costs us almost nothing, she points out.

In a lab at the University of Regina, more than a dozen garbage bags and plastic containers are filled with used masks. Denise Stilling collected them in containers provided for this purpose on campus.

After a while, when all traces of the virus had disappeared, the researcher removed the cords and pieces of metal masks before cutting them into strips. These strips are then ground to produce a fluffy material.

Once crushed, the masks are transformed into a fluffy material.

This material is then mixed with other scraps and olive oil, then the whole thing is baked in a mold at 200°C for two hours. The end product is a tile that must be tested for flexibility and strength.

Something less sturdy could be used to make rulers or clipboards, for example, she says. She adds that by varying the recipe, she could produce cobblestones or countertops, among other things.

Several students work in Denise Stilling's lab, such as Anaamalaai Annamalai Senthilnathan , 24 years old. He believes this is important research work, especially for his generation.

Many places ban single-use plastics and turn to to other options. However, what do we do with the plastic that currently exists? It should be recycled, argues this student.

Denise Stilling believes her research is a step in the right direction to reduce pollution. She hopes that entrepreneurs and governments will use the fruits of her labor in various projects.

With information from Sam Samson

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