Contaminated plastic waste is harmful to the environment. Therefore, by using disposable peel-off mats and plastic overshoes, you are harming the environment.

The anti-plastic movement is widespread in today’s day and age. Social media, news websites and near enough all modern day advertising reminds us of the millions of tons of plastic waste produced yearly across the globe.

With around half of the plastic ever manufactured having been produced in the past 15 years, the collaboration of industry in reducing production and improving recycling is increasing in importance.

In our daily lives, we are encouraged to make simple swaps such as using reusable coffee cups and supermarkets issuing 83% less plastic bags since charges for these commenced in 2015. There are many ways to curb plastic waste, including producing less, consuming less and better managing the waste that already exists to prevent contamination or leakage. But how does this mentality transfer into the workplace, particularly into environments where contaminated waste is prevalent?

Contaminated plastic waste in the workplace 

According to statistics reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), 15% of waste generated by healthcare activities is considered to be hazardous (infectious, toxic or radioactive).

Contaminated waste contains potentially harmful microorganisms that can infect hospital patients, health workers, and the general public. Other potential hazards may include drug-resistant microorganisms, which spread from facilities into the environment the disposal of untreated contaminated waste in landfills can lead to the contamination of drinking, surface, and ground waters if those landfills are not properly constructed.

In addition to these toxic side effects, open burning and incineration of healthcare wastes can (under some circumstances) result in the emission of dioxins, furans and particulate matter.

Aside from the environmental impacts, contaminated plastic waste can cause immense problems within the work environment. Lack of awareness about the hazards related to contaminated plastic waste, inadequate training in proper waste management, absence of waste management and disposal systems, insufficient financial and human resources and the low priority given to the topic are the most common problems.

Waste from peel-off mats

Hazardous or contaminated waste, coupled with disposal costs created with peel-off mats, are not to be ignored. Every peel of a sticky mat results in a 20cm ball of contaminated plastic waste. This generates enough waste to fill multiple dumpsters per year.

Peel-off mats not only create an abundance of unnecessary waste, but are very expensive to dispose of properly at the end its very short working life.

In addition, tests by GlaxoSmithKline show that disposable adhesive peel-off mats are only 27% effective in preventing foot and wheel-borne contamination.

The average 2in by 4in sized peel-off mat is too small to decontaminate effectively, which makes full wheel-borne decontamination almost impossible.

Ganging peel-off mats together

Ganging peel-off mats together addresses the size issue. However, the practical issues, labour and material costs involved in peeling 8-10 mats several times each shift makes this an expensive option. Ten peel-off mats ganged together means there is a 20% risk of contamination entering a critical area if peeled twice per shift.

Also, when ganged together, peel-off mats can harbour contaminants in the gaps between them.

Particle build up

The performance of peel-off mats is greatly reduced with overstrikes. With every step, contamination builds up in layers.

Peel-off mats also cannot allow the three full wheel rotations necessary to decontaminate wheeled traffic. These tacky, tearable mats are also prone to wrapping around wheels of trolleys and carts making it impossible to control cross-contamination in corridors.

Alongside this, they are prone to heavy saturation very quickly, reducing their efficiency in heavy traffic environments.

Adhesive from the mats can be transferred onto wheels and tracked into critical environments.

Peeling of mats

A study commissioned by a peel-off mat manufacturer highlighted the problem of particle shedding during the rip up process of peel-off mats. The tests revealed that on average, 215,000 particles were released during the rip-up process, releasing hundreds of thousands of particles back into the atmosphere.

Single-use shoe cover waste

The use of multiple pairs of shoe covers per shift per employee adds similar amounts of plastic waste expenditures, not to mention the financial implications for the purchase of shoe covers and costs to the disposal of contaminated waste.

Many manufacturers and distributors claim good traction, durability, waterproof capabilities and most of all contamination avoidance when selling shoe covers. However, the chlorinated polyethene, polypropylene (PVC) used to make the covers has inherent weaknesses that could create a risk to the critical environment.

Potential risks with shoe covers, such as ripping and slipping, will depend on the materials they are made from. Polypropylene (PP) presents several problems in a controlled environment setting. PP is a non-woven material, which means that it can and will shed particles.

Furthermore, the highest risk is not necessarily through the usage of the shoes but applying them to the feet. Using dirty / unwashed hands bypasses the purpose of having shoe covers and adds contamination to the underside even before entering critical environments.

How can Dycem make a difference?

Particularly within industries adhering to strict hygiene standards and needing to reduce dust particles within their working environments, common methods of controlling these types of contamination include shoe covers and overshoes.

These common contamination control methods such as shoe covers or peel off mats may appear effective, but actually increase your organisation’s plastic waste significantly.

Their low initial cost of alternatives may seem attractive, however, when comparing Dycem with peel-off mats and shoe covers. Dycem not only costs less over the longevity of both products but, most critically, Dycem vastly outperforms in terms of size, quality and retention of decontaminants, significantly reducing contamination risks to your business.

Dycem can be cut to any length or width to produce a large enough surface area to allow 99.9% decontamination of foot and wheel-borne contamination and is washable.  In order to get near comparable performance to Dycem, at least 8-10 peel-off, tacky or sticky mats need to be ganged together and peeled regularly.

When overstriking on Dycem, a further 90.3% of particles are removed from overshoes, compared with an increase of up to 381.9% being deposited back on to the shoes using peel-off mats.

The environmental benefit of Dycem

Dycem is easily integrated into your standard operating practices (SOP) and can be cleaned as part of a regular floor cleaning schedule.

Dycem does not impact on your daily waste volumes and can either be disposed of normally in regular waste or recycled into less critical applications (after its minimum three-year working life).