CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Many people are ordering more take out food than normal and that means more trash. The Charlotte nonprofit Envision Charlotte hopes to turn part of that trash into personal protection equipment or PPE.

What You Need To Know

  • Many more Americans are getting take out food and that means more residential trash

  • Most recycling facilities don't accept plastic food containers

  • Machine can turn that plastic into PPE

Envision Charlotte just received part of a machine that can melt plastic food containers.

“First, the machine, which isn’t here yet, will take this plastic and chip it,” Envision Charlotte Executive Director Amy Aussieker says. “Then we take those plastic chips and put them in the hopper here. After it goes into the hopper, it’s melted and will come out the back end here and then it will go over the cooling table there.”

The machine will then mold the plastic into certain shapes, known as filaments. The filament will be used for the top part of a medical face shield. Those parts will then be donated to a manufacturer to attach the clear slip.

“This machine can produce enough filament to make 576 shields a day,” Aussieker says.

This isn’t just good news for medical workers. This machine can also help reduce waste. Many recycling centers like the one in Mecklenburg County do not accept plastic to-go food containers.

“Many people turn things over on the bottom and say, well it has a recycling symbol,” Mecklenburg Solid Waste Management Director Jeff Smithberger says. “That may be able to be recycled if it is coming to the manufacturing plant where they make it, but we cannot follow those codes because those codes are no longer accurate.”

Envision Charlotte plans to start collecting plastic food containers May 29. They ask anyone who donates plastic to clean it out and take off any stickers.

“This keeps it out of the landfill, and turns it into something that is very needed right now, PPE,” Aussieker says.

The plastic containers can be donated at two locations in Charlotte; 7th Street Public Market and Charlotte Solid Waste services on Otts Street. Organizations currently producing PPE can apply for the free filament starting July 1.