India’s “Recycle Man” Has a Novel Solution to Medical Waste Like Used PPEs: Turning Them Into Bricks


India’s “Recycle Man” Has a Novel Solution to Medical Waste Like Used PPEs: Turning Them Into Bricks

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

The coronavirus pandemic is not just a medical crisis. As the rising number of cases and declining economy continue to move in opposite directions, it’s clear that the pandemic has many hidden side-effects. These aren’t just economical, but also environmental. The pandemic has necessitated the widespread usage of Personal Protective Equipment like masks, gloves, PPE suits, and face shields worldwide. Effective disposal of the medical waste generated through PPE has become a serious challenge for authorities, even in India. Luckily, innovators like Dr Binish Desai from Gujarat have come forward with clever solutions to help tackle this problem.

Desai has invented a new type of brick made from recycled PPE material. The bricks are made up of a combination of recycled PPE, paper waste, and a binding agent. Rather than letting used PPE find its way to landfills or end up polluting the oceans, Desai has found a sustainable way to reuse them even after they’ve served their purpose as medical equipment.

Desai has been committed to the principle of sustainability even before the pandemic struck. Also known as “The Recycle Man of India”, Desai was being covered by news channels in 2017 for his invention of P-blocks, a sustainable brick made from paper waste and gum. The incorporation of PPE into the mixture appears to be a tweak to the original P-blocks. Using P-blocks, Desai worked with NGOs to build over 1,000 toilets in rural areas across the country, for which he was hailed as an ambassador for the Swachch Bharat movement.

Now at 26 years of age, Desai is continuing his mission to make the world a better place through his inventions. With over 100 metric tonnes of Covid-related medical waste being generated daily in India according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Desai’s contribution to managing these literal mountains of waste is a timely one.