COVID-19 Plastic Face Shields: Production begins at Eco Brixs' HQ
At Eco Brixs, we recycle everyday waste into new items of value, which we refer to as our Eco-Products. This is the basis for our closed-loop system, which offers a long-term solution to Uganda's plastic problem.
Since we began in 2017, we've spent the last three years setting up a series of recycling centres across the district of Masaka, where we operate. This is to provide the wider community with a number of different points to conveniently bring their plastic waste to. (In return, we issue payment for the plastic in order to create income opportunities for local people.)
Now we've established the collection network to gather people's plastic, we can move onto the next exciting stage of our development - making Eco-Products from the waste!
Last month, we announced the imminent arrival of the machines that would allow us to do just that. Namely, to create plastic face shields to protect frontline workers in the Ugandan from COVID-19.
The machines have now arrived, been installed, and the team have been busy producing the new items. Distribution has begun as well, and we've even received feedback on our first product line from key officials in the community!
Here's an update from Eco Brixs HQ, including a step by step guide on how the team make the Face Shields...
Manufacturing the Face Shields
It's been an exciting period at Eco Brixs HQ. The machines from Austria have been installed and our first factory line of production is online. There's now a steady stream of shields being made every day.
There's certainly been a buzz amongst the team as we've been able to start creating Eco-Products from plastic waste for the first time! :)
Here Regina, our Finance Officer, shows us the new machines, prior to production beginning.
The new machine line to make the shields is made up of two items:
1. The 'Injection Machine', which is the larger machine (with the control box, blue wheel, blue surfaces and grey cylinder), which melts the plastic waste down.
2. The 'Product Mould', which is the silver horse-shoe shaped item on the blue table. This is what the melted plastic is fed into, once heated. It creates the shape for the frame for the shield, which holds it in place in front of people's faces.
Once the machines were set up, and the team trained, it was time to start making Eco-Products!
The Team in Action: How We Make the Face Shields
The team make the shields in two parts, which they then combine by hand to form the final Eco-Product. They make the frame of the shield from HDPE plastic bottle lids using the new machines. Then, they cut the transparent shield itself from PVC plastic.
To begin the process, the team begin by shredding bottled lids into small granules. Currently, they are making an incredible effort to do this by hand! However, in a month's time, we hope to have a shredding machine arrive to do this automatically.
Here, Johnson, our Operations Manager, shows us what the lids look like after they have been shredded into 'granules'.
From there, the granules are fed into the injection machine and melted down into their new shape. The video below demonstrates this, plus the team putting the final product together and preparing the shields for distribution.
As our CEO, Andy Bownds, explains: the shredded plastic lids are fed into the injection machine to make the frame for the shield. Within this machine, the plastic gets melted down into a liquid form. Then, by turning the blue wheel and providing pressure, it is squeezed into the product mould to take a new shape.
As Andy mentions, the colour of the frame is dependent on the colour of the bottle lids used. (We've quite enjoyed creating multi-coloured frames so far!)
The next stage in the process sees the mould opened and the new frame removed, where a member of staff then tidies the edges manually. The shield is then attached, and some elastic added to ensure the screen stays secure and comfortable for the wearer.
From there the finished product is packaged (alongside instructions made by a local artist) and is ready for distribution.
Distributing the Face Shields to the Community
We've begun distributing the shields to key workers in the community, and we're extremely pleased with the feedback so far, from both key officials and frontline hospital workers.
The visors are reusable as they can be easily cleaned, and it's also been noted how they are more comfortable than masks in the hot climate of Africa. They also allow for clearer communication between workers by keeping the mouth visible.
Furthermore, if the situation requires, they can be used in combination with masks.
In the video below, Andy interviews the Director of Masaka Referral Hospital, Dr Onyachi, who gives his feedback on the shields, and also thanks Eco Brixs and the Uganda Marathon for their support via the Coronavirus Relief Programme.
The Director describes the Face Shields as 'wonderful' and 'key' in protecting not only those working in the virus isolation facilities, but everyone across the hospital. He feels that fabric masks, on their own, are insufficient and the shields have the advantage of protecting the eyes.
Dr Onyachi is eager to distribute these new Eco-Products to all frontline workers at Masaka Referral hospital as soon as possible.
We're really pleased with the positive feedback we've received so far, and even more thrilled that our first Eco-Products are assisting frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19. Over the coming weeks, we'll continue to produce more Face Shields like these for the community.
We'll keep working to not only tackle the plastic problem, but to also support Masaka through the Coronavirus as well.
As cases of coronavirus in Uganda steadily rise, it looks increasingly likely the virus will take hold in the country. This will put huge pressure on its under-resourced healthcare system, as well as lead to the lockdown being extended where people can't go to work and therefore can't put food on the table.
If you can afford to support our relief programme to support Masaka hospital and feed vulnerable households, please do consider donating. Just a few pounds/dollars/euros can go an incredibly long way in Uganda and make a huge difference!