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Doctor helps turn ocean plastic into PPE for NHS workers

A British doctor is part of an innovative project to convert plastic dumped in the oceans into personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.

Dr Dominic Pimenta is the co-founder of a charity called HEROES, which was founded by NHS workers to help support the mental and physical health of their colleagues. The charity has teamed up with environmental organisation Parley for the Oceans to make 50,000 PPE items made from plastic dumped in the oceans.

The two organisations hope that others will follow suit amid concerns that single-use PPE is likely to exacerbate plastic pollution in our oceans. They claim that 16 million PPE items are thrown away every day by UK hospitals to avoid the risk of contamination and the spread of infectious diseases.

According to latest figures, up to 12.7 million tonnes enter the oceans each year, which is expected to outweigh fish by the year 2050.

A study conducted by UCL’s Plastic Waste Innovation Hub estimated that in the UK alone, 66,000 tons of plastic packaging waste would be created if every person used a single-use face mask a day for a year.

The 50,000 visors being made will be shared equally between UK health workers and their counterparts in the Dominican Republican, where the plastic was originally removed from the ocean.

Dr Dominic Pimenta, Co-Founder of HEROES, said:

My personal experience during shifts in intensive care was that eyewear was a surprising area of shortage and I soon realised that throwing away single-use items meant we had even less available, and equally that we were creating a shocking amount of waste.

With a second wave on the horizon, we urgently need sustainable, reusable and safe PPE that protects both healthcare workers and the environment.

Unlike current single-use equipment, the visors made by Parley have a longer lifespan and can survive the cleaning process.

Cyrill Gutsch, Founder and CEO, Parley, said:

Like every major threat to humanity and our future, the COVID-19 pandemic can only be solved with unprecedented levels of collaboration and eco-innovation.

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Image by Parley for the Oceans
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