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In the present global health emergency, face masks, gowns, caps, gloves play a key role in limiting the diffusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, by acting as physical barriers to avoid droplets and filtrate exhalations coming from infected subjects. Since the most widespread devices are disposable products made of plastic or rubber materials, this means that relevant quantities of fossil resources are consumed, and huge amounts of wastes are generated. Currently the end of life of personal protective equipment (PPE) represents a problem in environmental, economic, and social terms. The market considers two possible disposal scenarios: incineration with energy recovery or landfill. In both cases, significant impacts are achieved both on the environment and on human health. This study and this presentation aims to propose and validate a new closed-loop scenario for PPE based on material reuse for bituminous conglomerates. The Life Cycle Assessment methodology and the experimental tests has been used to assess the environmental impacts in terms of both ReCiPe midpoints and endpoints and for demonstrate the technical feasibility of this new scenario. From an environmental point of view, relevant benefits were observed in comparison with the standard incineration for energy recovery or disposal in landfill.
Mechanical and technological tests have shown the feasibility of using PPE in HMA asphalt, achieving the same performance as a standard asphalt.
The environmental assessment has shown a clear improvement in the case of asphalt reinforced with raw material from waste with a reduction in the impacts on both human health and the ecosystem.
At midpoint level, this method allows to assess 18 different impact categories. It is possible to note that the use of PPE in the HMA does not produce an increase in impacts. In general, it is possible to have a strong reduction of impacts for some categories. The avoided impact due to the reuse of personal protective equipment produces a significant reduction in term of eutrophication and toxicity.
This impact reduction it is more evident in the endpoint damage categories (human health [DALY], ecosystem quality [species.yr], resources[$]). In this figure a single score (expressed in [EcoPt]), after a normalization and another weighing, is highlighted. It is evident how the reuse of PPE produces a strong reduction of damage to human health.
It should be noted that this is an analysis based on data obtained in the laboratory. Better shredding and metering of the waste material could increase the life of the bituminous mix.
This would result in a further advantage in environmental terms, as in addition to disposing of a material destined for an incinerator or landfill, it would also extend the life of our roads.
Dr. Eng. Daniele Landi, Ph.D., is Tenure Track Assistant Professor (RTD-b) in the academic discipline ING-IND/15 - Design methods for industrial engineering at the department of management, information and production engineering of the Università degli Studi di Bergamo, Italy. He is currently teaching “methods and tools for the product life cycle” at the Bachelor Degree Course in Mechanical and Management Engineering, “Technical Drawing and prototyping design and principles” at the Bachelor Degree Course in Health Technology Engineering
He obtained the Bachelor Degree Mechanical Engineering in 2007, the Master Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2009 and the Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering curriculum Mechanical Engineering in 2014 at Università Politecnica delle Marche (Ancona, Italy) with a thesis about methods and tools design for the Sustainable Development. From March 2010, he was Scientific Collaborator and Research Fellow at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Mathematical Sciences of Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy. In January 2020, he joined the Università degli di Bergamo as Assistant Professor (RTD-B).
His scientific activity regards the following main research topics: Methods and tools for product life cycle; Methods and tools for Design for X (assembly, disassembly, environment, end of life, etc.); Methods and tools for ecodesign, life cycle assessment and life cycle management; Methods and tools for sustainable manufacturing.
He is currently acting as Guest Editor for three Special Issue of the journal Sustainability (MDPI Publishing), and associate editor of International Journal on Interactive Design and Manufacturing (IJIDeM). He constantly acts as reviewer of several reference journals (Journal of Cleaner Production, International Journal of Production Research, Resource, Conservation & Recycling, Sustainable Production and Consumption). He participated as Session Chair, speaker and reviewer in several international conferences (e.g. ASME IDETC, ICED, DESIGN, CIRP LCE, CIRP DESIGN, CAD).
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