A rat made of RAT: the COVID sculpture made from medical waste to boost the recycling effort

Tens of thousands of single-use rapid antigen tests (RATs) are used every day in Australia, but where the hell do they all end up?

Sasha Mainsbridge, founder of a non-profit organization Mullum careasks his community to deliver his used rapid antigen tests, despite concerns about the biological risks involved.

Watch the video above to learn about the best RAT tests and how to use them

To express his frustration In line with government inaction, Ms Mainsbridge has decided to take matters into her own hands with her own PPE, in a bid to demonstrate that recycling RATs is possible in her call for a national approach.

The goal of this RAT recycling project is to collect 50 kg of used test kits, reuse the plastic and feed it into a large 3D printer build a sculpture which would be publicly erected to highlight the cause.

His message to those outside Byron Shire in North East New South Wales is that people are ‘hanging on to them’ until a recycling method can be determined.

“We want to do this as a project to demonstrate that it can be done. If we can do that, then a larger-scale recycling system can certainly be put in place. »

Sasha Mainsbridge, founder of Mullum Cares, asks her local community to bring in their used RATs to make a recycling declaration. Credit: Provided

Tens of thousands of tons of additional medical waste resulting from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic have strained medical waste management systems around the world, according to a new report from the World Health Organization.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Sussan Ley told 7NEWS.com.au in response: ‘While it is important to recycle at every opportunity, we must also recognize that rapid antigen tests are classed as medical waste and that there is clear state and territory disposal requirements.

“The outer cardboard boxes can be recycled and the torch batteries should certainly be recycled via in-store collection points, but it’s important that people follow the correct guidelines.”

An NSW vet has also posted on social media about UV torches often included in rapid antigen test kits, saying some veterinary clinics may accept them as nurses use the torches to test animals for ringworm.

NSW Health said the test kits may contain pathogens that can be easily transmitted to others, and requested that all test kit materials used are disposed of in a biohazard waste bag.

A giant rat made of RAT

The sculptor involved in the project, Studio Kite director Steven Rosewell, plans to use a chipper to first chip the RATs into a fine grain, with the final design depending on how many they are able to collect.

If they collect the planned amount, the sculpture could take the form of a ‘big rat with a human face’ which Mr Rosewell said would be symbolic of the waste problem and, laughingly, ‘what rats we all are’ .

Studio Kite's Barangaroo Lion was printed using Mr. Rosewell's 3D printer, with compartments inside for soil and plants.
Studio Kite’s Barangaroo Lion was printed using Mr. Rosewell’s 3D printer, with compartments inside for soil and plants. Credit: Provided

His studio has previously created large-scale public artworks, including the Barangaroo lion and the sound cloud for Vivid Festival, with a 3D printer he designed and built himself, known as CADZilla.

“It’s just about getting people’s attention to the whole waste problem…it’s not just the fact that we’re using all these single-use plastics, it’s everything else we’re using as well” , Mr. Rosewell said.

“Steve assumes after looking at a RAT test himself, that it will be fine to put them in his machine, intact with the strips inside, but that’s something we’ll have to prove,” Ms Mainsbridge said.

“It creates a pretty big barrier if it fails. It can still be done, but it just adds another step to the process.

“COVID-19 has forced the world to address the gaps and overlooked aspects of the waste stream” – Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health and Environment, WHO

WHO Director of the Department of Public Health and Environment, Dr Maria Neira, said: “COVID-19 has forced the world to address the gaps and overlooked aspects of the waste stream and how we produce, use and dispose of our healthcare resources, from cradle to grave.

Tens of thousands of tons of additional medical waste resulting from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic have strained medical waste management systems around the world, according to a new report from the World Health Organization.

“What we are doing is just a demonstration, our organization is not trying to become a recycling company,” Ms Mainsbridge said, hoping for national reform.

“People are nervous”

The WHO report says the additional waste produced during the pandemic threatens human and environmental health and reveals an urgent need to improve waste management practices.

Printer cartridge and sanitary waste disposal processes are a good place to start looking for possible solutions, says Ms. Mainsbridge.

“What’s really important with these systems is that they are collected by trained people, so any risks can be easily managed.”

Ms Mainsbridge says staff trained in waste disposal would be key to the national RAT recycling scheme.
Ms Mainsbridge says staff trained in waste disposal would be key to the national RAT recycling scheme. Credit: DANIEL POCKET/AAP picture

Asked how she was tracking the recycling pilot and test collection, Ms Mainsbridge said: ‘That’s the tricky part. People are nervous, people are really nervous.”

With only a few pounds in her collection so far, Sasha approaches operating stores which she thinks might be ready to have collection bins, but says, “There is a lot of concern around the biohazard element. The challenge at the moment is to make it more convenient for people to drop them off.

“We advocate for extended producer responsibility in the form of a collection bin program where every place you buy a RAT has a collection bin,” Ms Mainsbridge wrote on her website.

“Why shouldn’t it be the responsibility of the manufacturer and the seller to manage end-of-life materials? »

“People are nervous, people are really nervous” – Sasha Mainsbridge, founder of Mullum Cares

Currently, Ms Mainsbridge says she decontaminates hand-delivered RATs using the COVID wash station at her organization, submerging the kits in sterilization solution for three days.

Likewise, Mr. Rosewell isn’t overly concerned that the project involves the processing of biohazardous materials.

He says he would be equally nervous to deal with general waste due to the large number of people unaware they are living with COVID, normally throwing away contaminated food waste and single-use drink bottles.

“The actual number of cases in the community is likely much higher than what is being reported,” Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said of a first of its kind. ranomized COVID test study.

This study sampled 117 households and found that while 20 households tested positive, only two of them already knew they were positive.

“Pool” of chemical waste

The WHO indicates that from 140 million test kits, it is possible to generate 2,600 tons of non-infectious waste, mainly plastic, and 731,000 liters of chemical waste, which is equivalent to a third of a swimming pool. Olympic size. .

Their report calls for reform and investmentwith recommendations including support for centralized treatment and investment in the recycling sector to ensure that materials like plastics can have a second life.

A warehouse full of rapid antigen tests.
A warehouse full of rapid antigen tests. Credit: Scott Dalton/PA

“In the face of COVID-19, the sustainable management of healthcare waste is more important than ever to protect communities, healthcare workers and the planet and to prevent pollution,” said Ruth Stringer, science and policy coordinator of Health Care Without Harm.

A WHO statement says the COVID-19 waste challenge presents an opportunity to strengthen systems to safely and sustainably reduce and manage healthcare waste.

“This can come through strong national policies and regulations, regular monitoring and reporting and increased accountability, support for behavior change and workforce development, and increased budgets and funding .

“Systemic change in the way healthcare manages its waste would include more thorough and systematic review and better procurement practices,” said healthcare waste task force chair Dr. Anne Woolridge.

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