COVID-19: Thailand faces PPE shortage using bottles

  • Reuters, SAMUT PRAKAN, Thailand

With an abundance of plastic waste, but a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), Thailand is turning waste into treasure by recycling bottles into protective clothing for people at risk of COVID-19 infection.

Millions of plastic bottles have been collected, shredded and made into threads to be woven into fabrics ultimately used for PPE, whether for hospitals or Buddhist temples, where monks have cremated people who have died of the disease.

“There are times when it is very difficult to get hold of PPE coveralls, sometimes even if you have the money you can’t buy it, but now we make it from recycled plastic bottles so what is trash can now be valuable, “said Phra Maha Pranom Dhammalangkaro, abbot of Chakdaeng temple in Samut Prakan province near Bangkok.

Photo: Reuters

Temple volunteers have sewn orange PPE suits for monks, funeral directors and scavengers, and PPE is sent to thousands of temples.

While not medical grade, they do at least offer some protection for people potentially exposed to COVID-19, and a PPE suit can be made with just 18 plastic bottles.

The PPE fabric is donated by a textile factory in Rayong Province which typically manufactures fabrics used by global brands.

At the factory, the yarns are made from recycled bottles and spun into a giant roll, then woven into a fabric that is treated to become water resistant.

“This is to prevent particulate dust from entering and the virus from coming into contact with us,” said Arnuphap Chompuming, sales and marketing manager of the Thai Taffeta textile company, which operates the factory. east of Bangkok.

About 18 million plastic bottles have been used since the middle of last year to make fabric for PPE, which has been sent to hospitals across the country, he said.

Phra Maha Pranom Dhammalangkaro said the recycling project is helping to ensure that more people are protected, not just medical professionals.

“We are saving lives and the environment too,” he said.

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