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Brief Published: 9 Jun 2020

Plastic-Free Compostable Solution for PPE

Reelshield, Plastic-Free Compostable PPE

While essential for frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic, disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) – which is predominantly plastic – is having a huge impact on the environment. To help reduce this waste, UK sustainable packaging pioneers Reelbrands and Transcend Packaging have collaborated with international campaign group A Plastic Planet on a plastic-free, compostable solution.

The Reelshield is a certified protective visor, consisting of a lightweight, adjustable headband and a transparent, mist-preventive screen. FSC food-grade paper board is used for the band, while the visor is made from cellulose extracted from PEFC renewable and sustainable wood pulp. It’s deemed suitable for home composting and complies with European EN 13432 standards (to be certified, products are required to disintegrate after 12 weeks and completely biodegrade after six months).

For those concerned with dealing with contaminated items, a dedicated service from international recycling business TerraCycle will collect and recycle/compost the used PPE. It’s also worth noting that the US Composting Council states there is “essentially no risk of transmitting [Covid-19] through composting”.

“No one wants to compromise the safety of employees and the public, but the plastic PPE visors are used once and then exist for centuries,” says Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet’s co-founder. “We wanted to lead by example and show that we can protect ourselves and protect our planet.” To encourage usage, the visors are priced closely to their plastic equivalents; sold in cases of 150 for £75 ($95), equating to 50p (63¢) per piece.

The outbreak has highlighted the urgent need for more eco-friendly material solutions for single-use equipment. According to the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), over 1.48 billion items of PPE have been distributed to frontline workers since February in England alone.

See Eco Face Mask Made from Coffee for another example, and Resetting Plastics: Updates & Innovations for more on the link between plastic and health.