Founder of Pure living, Lakshmi Menon is busy making low-cost mattresses from PPE tailoring cut pieces. She sees this as her role in fighting against the medical waste piling up due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. So how did she do it? What are the current waste statistics worldwide and in India?
Crux of the Matter
Making Mattresses Out Of PPE Waste?
Lakshmi, founder of PURE (Products Upcycled Recycled and Economised) Living has started the production of an eco-friendly and sustainable mattress called ‘Shayya‘ using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) tailoring kit cut pieces.
Earlier she made the smiling Chekutty dolls using damaged clothes, to help revive the flood-struck weavers of Chendamangalam handloom during the 2018 Kerala Floods.
What’s The Story Behind This Idea?
When the Covid-19 cases spiked in Lakshmi’s village, the government ordered every panchayat to start First-Line Treatment Centres (FLTCs), each with a capacity of 50 beds. This brought in huge demand for the mattress, pillow, pillow covers, etc.
In Kerala alone, there are around 1,000 panchayats, the demand was for around 50,000 mattresses. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, very few people were willing to come forth with donations. Then she saw the amount of PPE kit waste getting collected and that’s when she put two and two.
So What’s The Process?
The standard size of a Shayya mattress is 6ft x 2.5 ft. The scraps are braided into a long rope form of 35 m in length and 5 cm wide. The braided clothes are then placed and tied together in a zigzag pattern. On plywood, nails are fit with a gap of 2.5 ft.
The rope is attached on one end in the top corner and woven around the nails from left to right. From the top to down, the same material is used to keep the entire product intact. So there is no machine, no needle, no thread required to make the mattress. The leftovers of this whole process get converted into pillows.
The bedrolls can be easily washed, disinfected, and reused as well. So apart from solving the issue of the lack of bedding at Covid care centres, they can also be used in relief camps and temporary shelters affected by bad weather conditions.
Lakshmi has also employed 10 women at the Pure Living centre in Arayankavu to make Shayya wherein each woman is paid ₹300 per day, the cost of each mattress.
Current Plastic Waste Situation
A study published by the sustainability group, SystemIQ in July reported how if appropriate action against medical waste isn’t taken, the flow of plastic into oceans would increase to 29 mn tonnes per year by 2040.
The WHO also projected that the need for PPE would increase by 40% monthly to meet demand during the pandemic. This includes an estimated 89 mn masks, 76 mn pairs of gloves, and 1.6 mn pairs of goggles.
What’s Up With India
India produced 600 tonnes of biomedical waste per day before Covid-19 started. Findings by Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority to SC of India stated how metropolitan cities like Delhi’s biomedical output has risen from 25 tonnes per day in May to 349 tonnes per day in July. Similarly, Mumbai saw a double rise from 12,200 kg waste per day in June to 24,889 kg per day in August.
- Gumdrop is an american startup, which collects and recycles chewed gum and converts it into a sustainable material called Gum-tec. Gum-tec is used in rubber and plastic industries.
- Wu Lien-teh was a Malaysian physician renowned for his work in public health. Wu developed surgical masks he had seen in use in the West into more substantial masks with layers of gauze and cotton to filter the air during the pneumonic plague. It is believed that the N95 mask is the descendant of Wu’s design.
- A plague doctor was a physician who treated victims of the bubonic plague. In times of epidemics, these physicians were specifically hired by towns where the plague had taken hold. The clothing worn by them was intended to protect them from airborne diseases and is one of the earliest examples of the use of PPE by healthcare workers.