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COVID waste: This Taiwanese firm is turning used face masks into phone chargers

Taiwanese firm Miniwiz is reusing plastic from masks to create wireless phone chargers.
Taiwanese firm Miniwiz is reusing plastic from masks to create wireless phone chargers. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Euronews and AP
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The COVID pandemic is believed to be generating 7,200 tonnes of medical waste every day but this company is finding new ways to reuse it.

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In a bid to curb its spread, the COVID-19 pandemic has generated a tidal wave of medical waste, much of it disposable face masks made from plastic polymers.

But rather than let it clog landfill sites or worse, find its way into the environment, Taiwanese firm Miniwiz has found a use for used face masks: turning them into parts of a wireless phone charger.

It's all about reshaping the plastic found in most disposable face masks, explains Miniwiz CEO Arthur Huang.

The company developed a "Trashpresso" machine that combines a shredder, compressor, and a mechanical arm to automatically produce part of the chargers.

It's all about reshaping the plastic found in most disposable face masks, explains Miniwiz CEO Arthur Huang.

"This COVID-19 pandemic creates so much waste. A lot of single-use waste, especially all the plastic waste that's actually used to protect ourselves," he says.

"And we just thought if we can [use] this pollution instead of throwing them away, or being thrown into a landfill and mistreating them, how can we turn them into a valuable product during this pandemic? So, we thought about using this and turning it into a new generation of a wireless digital charger."

The mask waste is used to make the plastic shell, which is then assembled into a wireless charger with other electronic parts.

The robots shred the face masks, heat them up and turn them into a sort of plastic dough.

Taiwanese bank Fubon Financial collaborated with Miniwiz to offer wireless phone chargers to all its employees.

"We collected around 10,000 masks, added with material provided by Miniwiz. We made over 40,000 chargers for our employees," said executive vice-president Cindy Lin.

"Our employees were very happy to get this present because each charger was different, because they were made with recycled masks".

Miniwis doesn't plan to commercialise the wireless chargers, but already sells other items on its website from upcycled plastic not derived from face masks; from flower pots to sunglasses.

Disposable masks, gloves and other types of personal protective equipment have been an important part of personal protection during the coronavirus pandemic.

But they are also creating a worldwide pollution problem, littering streets and sending an influx of harmful plastic and other waste into landfills, sewage systems and oceans.

A December 2020 report by advocacy group OceansAsia found nearly 1.6 billion masks would flood oceans in 2020 alone, based on global production estimates and other factors.

OceansAsia said masks could take as long as 450 years to break down.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Nathalie Texier

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