Scientists have shown how disposable face masks can be recycled for road construction. The work was carried out in the framework of solving the problem of a circular economy for waste generated by a pandemic.

A study published in the journal Science of The Total Environment showed that using recycled face shield material is useful in road construction. A total of about 3 million masks will be required for one kilometer of a two-lane road. This will prevent 93 tons of waste from ending up in landfill.

The new road building material was created by researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Melbourne, Australia. It is a blend of crushed disposable face masks and processed construction debris designed to meet civil engineering safety standards.

Analysis has shown that face masks help add stiffness and strength to final products intended to be used as a base for roads and sidewalks.

The new study is the first to examine the potential uses of disposable surgical masks in civil engineering. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is estimated that around 6.8 billion disposable face masks are used every day worldwide.

Roads are made up of four layers: subgrade, base, base, and asphalt on top. All layers must be strong and flexible to withstand the pressure of heavy vehicles and prevent cracking. Recycled Construction Aggregate – Recycled Concrete Aggregate (RCA) – can potentially be used on its own for three sub-layers. The researchers found that adding crushed face masks to RCA improves the material while addressing environmental concerns in two ways: PPE recycling and construction waste.