Thousands of surgical masks recycled then metamorphosed into plastic before being reincarnated into visors or door openers: this is what the Plaxtil company, in Châtellerault (Vienne), has been offering since mid-June to curb the pollution caused by these disposable masks.
After confinement, “we saw the arrival of the masks and especially the pollution linked to these masks, there were everywhere, in the streets, in nature”, says Olivier Civil, 50, co-director of the young start- up specializing in textile recycling.
This pollution caused by these disposable masks composed of microfibers of polypropylene, a plastic, and which are not biodegradable, was not “inevitable” for the fifty-year-old and his partner Jean-Marc Neveu. The Châtelleraudaise company, which works alongside a group of SMEs specializing in plastics, claims to be “circular, ecological and united”. Already specialized in recycling, it has perfected a process for transforming these masks which have become ineffective and harmful to health and the environment.
First, the collected masks are placed in “quarantine” for 4 days by the Audacie company with which the company works. “Normally only two days are enough, but we remain cautious,” explains Civil. Then at Plaxtil, the masks go “through the crusher” before being engulfed for 30 seconds in an “ultraviolet tunnel” to ensure complete and reliable decontamination.
“It is recognized as being the best germicide”, affirms Olivier Civil who works with Uvimobi, a company specializing in the decontamination of shared transport vehicles with ultraviolet solutions.
“50,000 recycled masks”
Last step, “we mix this material with a resin which will allow it to become a hard material”, he adds without further details, the process remaining “secret and protected”. Once recycled, the plastic can be used to make all types of objects, by molding.
“The possibilities are endless”, specifies Mr. Civil, even if for the moment the start-up, strong of five employees, relies on useful products to fight against the coronavirus such as protective visors or door openers, small instrument so as not to touch a doorknob.
The Plaxtil company has already “recycled more than 50,000 masks”, points out Mr. Civil, thanks in particular to the multiplication of collection points. “At first, we targeted the medical community, such as pharmacies or medical practices.” Given the interest that the initiative has aroused, many businesses have embarked on fundraising.
Since the end of June, between 2,000 and 3,000 products made from these disposable masks have been produced.
The company is supported by the community of the agglomeration of Grand Châtellerault “committed to the prevention and reduction of waste”, which financed the start of the activity. This initiative “has been part of our circular economy objectives from the start”, rejoices the elected Évelyne Azihari, in charge of the energy policy of Grand-Châtellerault.
Faced with success, “we are wondering how to generalize our initiative. We have requests from the whole of France. The Ministry of the Economy and Finance contacted us to see if we were ready to join forces to make a mask recycling channel “, specifies the co-director. At the beginning of September, products made from recycled masks will be handed over to the town hall so that they can be distributed free of charge to employees of the community, or to associations.