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Recovering and reusing procedure masks: a promising pilot project thanks to a local partnership

Sherbrooke, le 10 février 2021 – “This reuse project launched by the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS will prevent thousands of procedure masks and other types of personal protective equipment (PPE) from ending up in the landfill.” This is how Manon Larivière, Director of Technical Services at the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS, began the press briefing to announce the institution’s launch of a promising pilot project in sustainable development.

With the COVID-19 crisis shining a light on environmental issues related to the growing use of procedural masks and all PPE more broadly, the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS, in partnership with the Université de Sherbrooke, CRB Innovations and MGA Environnement, has initiated a pilot project to recover and reuse procedure masks as part of a sustainable development approach to promote the region’s circular economy.

“The CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS uses a lot of PPE, as we take every precaution to protect our users, employees and doctors. For years, our commitment to sustainable development has compelled us to work with partners to find environmentally responsible and innovative solutions. We have a long-term vision for this pilot project, which is a new step in the recovery and reuse of our residual materials,” said Manon Larivière.

A local solution

To address this issue, two companies in the Eastern Townships—CRB Innovations and MGA Environnement—developed a process to convert PPE into a recoverable composite using waste from the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS and the Université de Sherbrooke as a raw material.

“This composite is in fact made from local plastic-enriched biomass (PEB) that meets the environmental standards recommended by International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC 4) as well as the specifications of the clients in our waste recovery network.
Thanks to the process’s flexibility, we can take a mix of different types of plastics, PPE, and other materials without the need to manually sort them beforehand. This innovative solution prevents these items from going to the landfill,” said Martin Gagnon, Project Manager at MGA Environnement.

Initially, small volumes will be collected for the pilot project in order to optimize the model, which can then be deployed at all facilities of the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS. The institution will then expand the type of materials collected to include PPE, which will be reused in this process. The collected materials will be sent to the Centre d'innovation minière de la MRC des Sources (CIMMS 3) and then put to new use by a local partner.

Since October, thousands of procedure masks collected from the Université de Sherbrooke will get a second life through this new technology. “UdeS is already considered one of Canada’s best universities in terms of its waste management, and our institution stands out yet again with this community and regional approach,” said Patrice Cordeau, Assistant Vice-President, Sustainable Development.

A research agreement with professors in the Faculty of Engineering will also enhance this partnership and lead to technological advances so that the used heterogeneous plastics are compatible with a recovery process that is both environmentally and socially acceptable. With these winning conditions in place, we can also look further to think about incorporating other materials into the project. “Next summer, the University's waste collection site will be characterized by an environmental master’s student to measure the full potential of this new project and let the institution take yet another step towards its goal of zero waste,” said Cordeau.

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Source : CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS

Information CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS:

Sara Calvert, Communications Advisor
CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS
819-943-7002 |

Information Université de Sherbrooke:

Isabelle Huard, Media Relations Advisor
Communications Department, Université de Sherbrooke
819-560-2373 |

Information CRB Innovations and MGA Environnement:

Martin Gagnon, Project Manager
873-200-3616 |