iX Challenges: Re-processing, Re-using or Modifying large quantities of PPE and Hand sanitiser

This challenge is to support the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in finding innovators that can reprocess, re-use or modify large quantities of PPE gowns, goggles, visors and hand sanitiser into new products that have further application or use. Innovators should have capacity to handle significant volumes of products.

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Products will be provided to selected winners of this competition by DHSC on a cost-neutral basis to the applicant. The surplus will have an inherent value for the winning companies as a feedstock/product lines/resource. DHSC may want to explore potential share gain agreements if innovators identify a solution which will generate significant income.



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DHSC holds significant volumes of stock in some categories of PPE, which is unlikely to be used before it expires.

DHSC has employed a range of measures to reduce it including selling, re-using and donating (UK and internationally), recycling, using energy from waste processes to dispose of stock, and by pursuing return or recovery of costs through the original supplier. DHSC is committed to a zero landfill and zero incineration without energy recovery target for all PPE stock. They are looking at further and more innovative ways to accelerate the reduction of stock levels which cannot be sold, donated or easily recycled.

This approach aims to:

  • reduce expired stock through the waste management hierarchy
  • generate further value, including social value, for the economy,
  • find alternative products and processes that can work to reuse as much of the material as possible (including associated packaging of PPE stock).

DHSC, with support from Innovate UK KTN, are looking for innovative solutions to achieve these aims by delivering three challenges around large quantities of expiring stock. 

Challenge 1: Approaches to Recycling or Adding Value to Obsolete Medical Textile Based PPE

The first challenge seeks companies who are able to reprocess textile-based PPE in the form of gowns into either;

  • raw material components for further use or
  • new products or materials that could have further application or use.

These PPE products are contained within various sites across the UK.

The gowns are made from Spunbond Meltblown Spunbond, commonly known as SMS, a tri-laminate non-woven fabric. It is made up of a top layer of spunbond polypropylene, a middle layer of meltblown polypropylene and a bottom layer of spunbondSMS 60grams/m2. This material may be difficult to reprocess or extract value out of via conventional methods and can be costly to process. DHSC are committed to not using landfill to dispose of these items and are looking to source more innovative and sustainable solutions for stock which cannot be sold, donated or recycled that could reduce stock volumes of PPE and form part of a more circular route of re-entry into the real economy for these products.

Challenge 2: Innovative Applications for the Repurpose and Modification of Multicomponent Rigid PPE Polymer Products

In this challenge DHSC are looking for organisations that might be able to use, process or repurpose unused PPE currently in the form of eye and face protection, contained within various sites across the UK.

Companies with ideas, processes or solutions for modifying the use of component materials in their existing form or modification into new products that could have further application or use are sought within this challenge. This includes, but is not limited to, the deconstruction, mechanical or chemical recycling of the products and their associated packaging, creating new compounds/materials that may be of benefit as a material feedstock within the applicant company or to other manufacturers.

Indicative products include eye goggles with a PVC frame and Polypropylene Copolymer screen, and face protectors with a Polypropylene Copolymer Block headband and Acetate visor.

Challenge 3: Innovative Ideas for Recycling or Adding Value to Surplus Hand Sanitizer

DHSC has stock of hand sanitizer (predominantly alcohol based) which may be reaching its shelf-life or will not be used before it expires.

The main focus for this challenge is to seek companies that have the capability to reprocess the hand sanitizer solutions. This could be by direct use into other products or by extracting or separating the constituents of the sanitizer formulations into chemical compounds that might be applied to existing products within the winning organisation or sold on to a third party for other products.

The goods are presently packed as would be normal for shipping by boat to destinations of use. They are in varying types of plastic bottles or plastic containers, different sizes ranging from 50-500ml which may then be packed within cardboard boxes on pallets ready to be moved to their destination of use. Innovators should therefore also consider the packaging of the products and how this will be unpacked, handled and processed and if possible demonstrate a route to reprocess the containers.

Further information

For all three challenges, innovators should note they must be able to handle a significant volume of material, and also the packaging involved in each product. DHSC are ideally looking for organisations who offer scalable solutions and can handle multiple lorry- or container-loads of stock. DHSC recognizes that some applicants may only be capable of small-scale pilot/demonstrators. In those cases if there is no current capacity to handle significant volumes at present, innovators should set out how they could scale-up to these volumes (and beyond) over time. Where possible innovators should indicate the scalability of their process in terms of volumes of stock on a monthly basis.

Successful applicants invited to the pitch stage would be expected to provide indicative high-level assumptions of the costs and benefits to ensure that the company can handle the quantity as well as understand the marketplace for the product.

DHSC are currently offering the material on a cost-neutral basis to the applicant but may want to explore potential share gain agreements if innovators identify a solution which will generate significant income.

Entrants to this competition must be established businesses, startups, SMEs, social enterprises or individual entrepreneurs, with a UK based facility or intending to set up a UK base.

For more information on each challenge, follow the links below.


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