Reuse of COVID-19 face mask for the amelioration of mechanical properties of fat clay: A novel solution to an emerging waste problem

Zia ur Rehman*, Usama Khalid

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic caused a global health crisis, but it has also changed the dynamics of waste generation around the world. This situation demands a productive solution for face mask (FM) waste management to solve several associated environmental issues. In the current study, a novel soil treatment method is proposed for the improvement of mechanical characteristics of fat clay by using FM as fiber reinforcement and silica fume (SF) as the cementitious agent in the form of a composite binary admixture (CBA). The performance of the proposed CBA is compared with SF and FM as the lone stabilizers by conducting extensive geotechnical testing. The SF treatment exponentially improves the strength characteristics of soil but it marginalizes the ductility of soil, inviting sudden failure and instability under dynamic loadings. It is observed that the proposed CBA not only improves the strength characteristics more than SF but also regulates the ductility and deformability of treated soil due to the presence of FM fibers. In addition, the policies and protocols on the logistics of collecting FM waste and making it ready for the proposed geotechnical application are reviewed; associated health risks, socioeconomic conditions and available technologies are the major governing factors to formulate and implement these policies. Moreover, the prolonged storage of COVID-19 FM waste for disinfection is found to be suitable for the proposed soil stabilization method as per the literature. The current study helps in achieving cost-effective filler/foundation material, solving COVID-19 FM waste problems and promoting resource conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number148746
Number of pages17
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date3 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2021


  • Composite binary admixture
  • COVID-19 face mask
  • Fat clay
  • Mechanical properties
  • Waste management

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