Approaches to Recycling or Adding Value to Obsolete Medical Textile Based PPE

There is a significant surplus stockpile of medical textile-based surplus and unused PPE stored in warehouses and containers across the UK. This challenge is to support the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in finding innovators that can reprocess (chemically, mechanically or by any other appropriate process) large quantities of surplus PPE gowns into materials or new products that have further application or use. Innovators should have capacity to be able to handle significant volumes of gowns.


Challenge opens


Challenge closes



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. Companies will benefit from the value of materials gained from revalorised (adding value to) textiles or from the repurposing or modification into new products. DHSC may want to explore potential share gain agreements if innovators identify a solution which will generate significant income.


At the beginning of the pandemic, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) worked to ensure there was sufficient stock of PPE for the COVID-19 pandemic. DHSC set up an additional supply chain to procure, manage and distribute life-saving PPE for free to frontline staff and patients to protect themselves against COVID-19. Between 25 February 2020 and 30 June 2022, DHSC distributed 21.5 billion items of PPE, predominantly for use by health and social care services in England.

In practice, demand has turned out to be lower than forecast. This was difficult to predict at the beginning of the pandemic and therefore DHSC planned to a Reasonable Worst-Case Scenario.   As a result, DHSC now holds significant volumes of stock in some categories of PPE, which is unlikely to be used before it expires. 

In order to reduce the cost to the taxpayer of storing surplus stock, 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 has followed the Government's Waste Hierarchy and is committed to a zero landfill and zero incineration without energy recovery target for all PPE stock.

DHSC 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 the costs to the taxpayer in storing excess stock
  • reduce expired excess 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-IX is looking for innovative solutions to achieve these aims by delivering three challenges around excess or expiring stock. This challenge is focused on the revalorisation and recycling of medical textile-based PPE gowns.

Join the Innovation Exchange launch webinar on September 21st to find out more. Register here

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