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‘Lost plastic’ from labs can help fight corona virus

The Centre for Polymer and Material Technology in Belgium has recycled laboratory waste into a practical accessory that makes the wearing of face masks more comfortable.

Anticipating a spike in demand for mouth masks, researchers in Ghent have created the ‘EarBuddy. This flexible strap with multiple settings hooks onto the ear loops of a face mask, securing it behind the wearer’s face, thereby reducing skin irritation.

The recycled accessory is made entirely from plastic waste sourced from local laboratories. The first batch of EarBuddy came from polypropylene packaging and pipette tips. In the first part of the process, the plastic is cleaned and injection moulded into the desired shape. Daily production is now 2 500 units. As an added benefit, the EarBuddy can be easily sterilised so it can go back into the loop.

EarBuddy moulds and the final products.

The work was pioneered by professor Ludwig Cardon and professor Kim Ragaert of Ghent University. Both are proud of having found a high-end application for ‘lost plastic’ – material that is frequently incinerated.

‘Another lost plastic saved!’ Ragaert says with confidence. She believes mouth masks will be made mandatory for Belgian students and teachers during this year’s exams. Some schools are also requiring teachers to wear them inside the classroom the coming months.

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