A French company has developed Europe’s first compostable face mask as a means of reducing plastic waste during the coronavirus pandemic.
The face mask has a corn blend lining to keep the wearer comfortable, as well as a recyclable elastic band. The masks are made by Geochanvre, a manufacturer in rural France.
In order to make these masks, hemp fibre bales are put through compressors and over rollers. The material then reportedly emerges as hard-packed flat sheets, which can then be cut into shape and handfolded.
You can check out this innovative solution for yourself below:
Founding president of Geochanvre, Frédéric Roure, told Reuters:
It’s heresy not to ban polyethylene products, materials that are shipped to all corners of the world. Use local agricultural materials. This is a natural product and will go back into the soil.
An approximate 1.5 million of these hemp masks have been purchased since March, with the majority of customers coming from Europe and Canada.
The mask has been dubbed the first ‘ecological and ethical consumer mask’, and was created with the hopes of reducing the environmental impact of disposable face masks.
In the UK, the Green Party has called for ‘greater government guidance’ at a time the country is ‘drowning in plastic’.
Although face masks are indeed necessary when helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the continued use of disposable masks is said to be causing ‘enormous’ plastic waste in the UK.
The British government is now being urged to encourage members the public to make a swap to reusable face masks, which can be washed and worn multiple times.
Reusable face masks are available, however, as per BBC News, many people are still choosing disposable ones which contain plastics like polypropylene, which pollutes water.
If disposed of incorrectly, these mask can be harmful to wildlife, with creatures potentially mistaking the masks for food and attempting to eat them. They can also become tangled up in the thin straps of the coverings.
Laura Foster, the head of clean seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said:
Just look at rivers such as the Thames and you’ll see them floating by.
When they’re whole, wildlife’s going to get tangled in it or the plastic’s going to be ingested. They aren’t going to biodegrade either, although they will break up, introducing more microplastics into the sea and the food chain.
According to the UN, it’s expected that, worldwide an approximate 75% of used masks, and other pandemic-related waste, will end up in landfills, or in the ocean.
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