Worried concerning the environmental harm carried out by rising consumption of private protecting tools (PPE) throughout the pandemic, the federal authorities is asking the personal sector to give you PPE merchandise that will not find yourself in landfills.
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada launched two enterprise challenges immediately asking small- and medium-sized Canadian corporations to produce compostable masks and recycling applied sciences for single-use PPE.
“Our government is acting quickly to ensure that we are mobilizing our innovation programming and resources to confront and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” mentioned Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains in a press launch.
“The successful Made-in-Canada solutions to the challenges launched today will help contribute to our health care response to keep Canadians safe into the future.”
The first problem seeks applied sciences for “efficient and cost effective” recycling of PPE waste generated by the Canadian well being care system. The know-how should have the ability to rework PPE merchandise which will comprise traces of micro organism or viruses into “valuable materials that can further be used in manufactured products,” in response to the discharge.
The second offers with compostable surgical masks and respirators, together with N95s, which might be mass produced and utilized by well being care staff.
Companies accepted into this system may obtain as much as $300,000 in authorities funding to develop proof-of-concept, or as much as $1 million to develop a working prototype.
PPE consumption surges throughout pandemic
Countries all over the world have seen their consumption of PPE soar in current months as hospitals, workplaces and people implement an infection prevention measures to sluggish the unfold of COVID-19.
One peer-reviewed examine revealed within the tutorial journal Environmental Science & Technology estimated the world is utilizing 129 billion disposable masks and 65 billion disposable gloves every month.
Most of these merchandise are made out of non-biodegradable, petroleum-based polymers and are designed for use solely as soon as after which discarded. In Canada, the overwhelming majority find yourself in landfills — or are incinerated if they’re deemed to be a biohazard.
The federal authorities estimates that 63,000 tons of COVID-19-related PPE will find yourself as waste in Canada over the subsequent 12 months.
With the rising use of masks exterior of well being care settings and among the many common inhabitants, increasingly more PPE merchandise additionally find yourself as litter on streets and parks, in rivers, lakes and oceans, mentioned Sarah King, who leads Greenpeace Canada’s oceans and plastics marketing campaign
“This is just the latest example of how when we produce too much disposable anything, we can’t contain it and it essentially leaks into the environment and starts to negatively impact the ecosystem,” King mentioned.
“It’s just adding to the already out-of-hand plastic pollution and waste problem.”
King mentioned the issues attributable to disposable PPE prolong past plastic air pollution. She mentioned emissions generated by plastics manufacturing worsen local weather change and the incineration of disposable PPE causes destructive well being impacts for folks in communities close to incinerators.
“Plastic as a material, which most of the PPE is made of, essentially pollutes from production all the way through to disposal,” King mentioned.
Plastic ban exempts PPE
Last week, the Liberal authorities unveiled an inventory of six plastic objects it plans to ban on the finish of 2021: grocery luggage, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, plastic cutlery and meals takeout containers. Personal protecting gear and different medical merchandise made out of plastics are exempt.
The corporations that produce single-use PPE do their greatest to ensure prospects know the way to correctly eliminate the merchandise, mentioned Benoit Larose, a vice-president at Medtech Canada, the commerce affiliation that represents medical know-how corporations.
“The issue of littering and disposal, of proper disposal of medical equipment in general, is important to industry and to the association,” mentioned Larose.
“The companies are trying to reduce their environmental footprint to make sure that there is not unnecessary waste generated by the use of our products.”
In addition to the enterprise challenges launched immediately, the federal government is offering assist to Canadian researchers and firms engaged on options to single-use PPE, resembling reusable PPE, a spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada mentioned in an announcement.
“At the most recent Canadian Council of Environment Ministers meeting earlier this summer, pollution considerations relating to PPE [were] discussed and the Government of Canada committed with the provinces and territories to working together and with industry to ensure we can properly dispose of PPE so it does not end up in our natural environment,” Chelsea Stacey mentioned.
An worldwide group of specialists and well being professionals signed an open letter this summer season encouraging extra widespread use of reusable masks and gloves as a approach to cut back waste generated by single-use PPE merchandise.
One of the signatories was Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room doctor at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary who additionally serves as interim president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
Vipond mentioned reusable PPE resembling material masks and gloves ought to be the norm for the general public, however that widespread adoption of reusable PPE in well being care settings can be more difficult due to rules round security.
“The thing to recognize is there’s an excellent viable alternative to disposable masks for the public … We know the cloth masks are either almost as good as good or better than the surgical mask,” mentioned Vipond. “In the hospitals, it’s harder to see an alternative where we’re pretty much stuck using single-use masks.”
Some corporations are creating reusable PPE merchandise meant for use in well being care settings.
Winnipeg-based Precision ADM is engineering a reusable N-95 respirator masks — broadly thought of to be the gold commonplace in respiratory safety — that can be utilized as much as 30 occasions earlier than being discarded if it is disinfected after every use, CEO Martin Petrak informed CBC News.
Petrak mentioned the corporate, which already has a contract with the Manitoba authorities, hopes to acquire Health Canada approval for its N-95 masks subsequent week.