Author – Keerthana Muralidhar
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has drastically affected all of our healthcare, economic and environmental systems. We are well aware of the state of economic slowdowns, unemployment, and failing health infrastructure in our country. Both mainstream media and social media platforms are flooded with the opinions of experts and novices discussing all of these socio-economic factors.
But, it’s high time to think of the waste management system – the huge amounts of solid medical waste being generated, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, containers of medicines, PPE kit, and other single-use items being disposed of by medical institutes.
Rising burden of managing medical waste
India’s medical waste management system is at a high risk of damaging the environment and its 198 common bio-medical waste treatment facilities and 225 captive incinerators available are already stretched. While the PPE kit waste is disposed of and recycled, the high volumes of smoke produced by medical incinerators harm the nearby communities and the environment at large.
For context, Wuhan, the epicenter of the Covid outbreak reported six times higher burden on its medical waste disposal system in 2020. To tackle this environmental burden, Dr Binish Desai, a 27-year-old doctor from Gujarat, has innovated a process to recycle PPE kit waste into bricks.
Being a Ph.D. holder in environmental science and technology, Binish has worked on waste management for almost two decades now. Now that might come as a surprise as to how a 27-year-old has been working on waste management for over two decades, right? He is known as the ‘Waste Warrior’ and ‘Recycle Man of India’, and started his journey of environment-friendly innovations at the young age of 11!
At the age of 11, Binish introduced the idea of making bricks by recycling wastes. Later in 2016, he turned his idea into a reality by developing bricks made out of waste produced by paper mills. Binish believes that the concept of ‘Waste’ does not exist in nature, waste is only generated by human consumption, Thus it is our duty to sustainably get rid of it.
With this aim, Binish founded a social enterprise named Eco Eclectic Technologies to work on his eco-friendly innovations. And at 27, his latest invention Brick 2.0 has shot to fame. He currently has 150+ eco-products under the EcoEclectic Technologies banner in India. He is a Padma Shri nominee and has received many national and international awards for his contributions.
What led Binish to Brick 2.0?
In April 2020, when the nation was under lockdown, Binish was immersed inside his home laboratory. “Initially, everyone was talking about how the lockdown had helped reduce pollution, but I could only think of what the rising demand for PPE suits and masks would lead to,” the young innovator said. He collected a bunch of used masks from his own family and started studying the material they were made of, checked their tenacity and explored various combinations of binders with small prototype experiments. He decided to create a brick with a ratio of 52% PPE + 45% paper waste + 3% binder, Binish concluded after his prototype experiments
Process of making Brick 2.0
As a first step, he planned to create ‘Eco Bins’ and install them in public places like hospitals, police stations, salons, etc. with the help of the municipal and local bodies in Surat and Valsad. After proper sanitation and disinfecting protocols, the material collected from Eco Bins will be shredded and added to the industrial paper waste procured from paper mills and mixed with a binder. This mixture is then kept for 5-6 days and later poured into moulds to set. As the last step, these bricks are naturally dried for 3 days before it is made available for use.
It is crucial to follow the safety and hygienic protocols when dealing with recycling medical waste. So Binish says for the process of making Brick 2.0, they adhere to the guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board. Since the PPE kit waste has to remain untouched for 72 hours before disposal, the Eco Bins are opened 72 hours later and the waste collected will be washed and disinfected thoroughly.
Binish Desai had earlier worked on creating ‘P block bricks’ – made out of specially formulated gum base. These P block bricks made out of industrial wastes were used to build around 1,000 toilets in Gujarat, Hyderabad, and Pali in Maharashtra in order to empower women. These P block bricks are not only eco-friendly, but are also cost-effective when compared to regular bricks. They are priced at INR2.8 per brick versus INR4 for a regular mud brick.
Dr. Binish Desai has received many national and international awards for his contributions such as being the youngest person to be awarded the “Rotary International Alumni Humanitarian of the Year” award for South Asia, Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2018 list of successful social entrepreneurs, etc.
At a time where every move we make, every habit we form is significant to a better future, Binish’s innovation of recycling medical waste management initiative definitely needs to reach larger masses.