Troy University researchers are investigating methods for recycling medical plastics into new products. | Rob Byron/Shutterstock

The coronavirus has put a focus on the plastics used in the manufacture of gloves, masks and other types of personal protective equipment. KW Plastics will assist Troy University scientists who are studying the recycling of that material.

The university in Troy, Ala. on April 6 announced that its Center for Materials and Manufacturing Sciences will research the recycling of plastics from personal protective equipment (PPE) and the recycling of plastics into PPE.

“The current pandemic has shown the crucial need to increase the nation’s production capacity in regards to protective equipment for our medical professionals,” Dr. Govind Menon, director of the center, stated in a press release. “At Troy, we are committing to researching new methods for producing polymer-based PPEs in preparation for future medical threats.”

The center has also started research into methods for recycling medical plastics into new products.

“Medical plastics are high-quality virgin plastics that are being incinerated for fear of contamination,” Menon stated. “We believe it’s possible to recycle this plastic and remove any threat of contamination to create useful, high-grade plastics for non-medical uses. This would be a huge reduction in waste.”

Stephanie Baker, director of market development for the recycling division of KW Plastics, which is based in Troy, said the company established a research partnership with the university. The polyolefins reclaimer will share information as the university conducts research, she said.

Focusing on polymers and polymer recycling, the Center for Materials and Manufacturing Sciences was established in 2018 with the help of a $3.2 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST awarded the center another $2.7 million research grant last year.

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