We are currently facing one of the worst disasters ever, called coronavirus pandemic. Not only because it has killed millions of people, but also because it has crashed the economy of billions of people all around the world.
Yes, the economy is the second most talked aspect in coronavirus pandemic. Not only because the pandemic limits us going out for work, but also to spend our money for recreational things. It limits our income, and how to spend our outcome.
No wonder the pandemic doesn’t only affect our lives physically, but also mentally. But aside from how it affects us both mentally and physically, it also affects our earth in a way that has never happened before in the planet’s history.
Because the virus is spreading mostly from one’s breathing system to another, wearing face mask is considered as one of the best ways to protect further spreading in public. Many of the face masks are reusable, but not few people choose to wear disposable single-use face masks.
It creates a problem when the disposable single-use mask is not biodegradable. Most of the single-use masks are made of plastic, that cannot biodegrade. In other words, the pile of used masks will stay almost forever on this planet, while we know the consumption of it keeps rising day by day.
Knowing about the problem, some innovative people already figured out about how to make use of the single-use masks, so that they won’t litter the earth once this pandemic stop.
Single Use Problem For Face Mask
First thing first to be noticed is that every, or at least most, single use face mask is made of plastic. Because of that, we can say that they have the same potentials as single use plastic bags or straws to litter our environment.
The difference is only that they are used to protect us from the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus, while we don’t really have enough reasons to keep using plastic bags and straws. But the practicality and usability of single-use mask doesn’t justify its littering.
Well, we can reuse plastic bags directly, but what about disposable masks? We cannot use it again directly, let alone using the one that another person has used before. It means we use and throw away face mask just like that without thinking how it would affect our planet.
This is the reason why creative innovations to solve our face mask waste problem is needed before it is too late. Once the global coronavirus problem is over; we might have already drowned in the ocean of single use mask.
As we mentioned above, we need the solution immediately before we drown in the ocean of disposable face mask. So, not only talking about the problem, we are going to talk about the solution also. Here are some creative innovations to make use of single-use face masks.
Turning Single-Use Mask Into Plastic Visor
Plaxtil, a French start-up company, offered the vison of making further use of used disposable face masks. Not only they recycle the waste, but they also turn the waste into something that’s not less important in fighting the coronavirus.
“We said to ourselves: it’s not possible, it’s not inevitable that these masks will end up either in nature or incinerated. We can recycle them, we can do something with this material and we can renew their value,” as the co-founder of the start-up company, Olivier Civil, told AFP.
The company used to recycle used clothes and turn it into something similar to plastic called Plaxtil. But once the pandemic hit the planet, they averted their source and switched to recycling used single-use disposable masks.
“Concretely, we take fabrics, so clothes – or now, masks – we collect them, we grind them down, mix them with a binding material and we transform them into a material that is called Plaxtil, which can be used in industry and molded like normal plastic,” Civil said. Further, the Plaxtil can be turned into plastic visors that can further help people fight the global pandemic.
Convert It Into Plastic Pellets
“Many people are not aware that disposable face masks are made from plastic,” said Albar Hanif Dawam Abdullah to Tempo. Dawam Abdullah is the leader of research conducted by Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) to figure out solution to face mask waste.
Of course, the LIPI researchers know about that fact, and thus they decided to make us of that. The researchers then decided to use the most basic way to recycle plastic, which is to turn it back into plastic pellets. “The technique used is not through heating it but adding a solution made from Sodium hypochlorite,” Dawam Abdullah said.
Convert Single-Use Mask Into Road Materials
This one is pretty special, because it can convert used single-use mask into road materials. A study by the researchers at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Australia, found that used masks are actually good to be used as road materials.
“This initial study looked at the feasibility of recycling single-use face masks into roads and we were thrilled to find it not only works, but also delivers real engineering benefits,” said Dr Mohammad Saberian, the author of the study.
Yes, combining shredded mask into base layers of road, even though only 1% of the whole mixture, provides a lot of durability to the final product. Approximately, this innovation can consume up to 3 million used disposable face mask per kilometer.
Every day, we dispose 6.8 billion disposable face masks during this pandemic. With this invention, every single mask can be mixed into materials to build only 2,300 kilometers long roads.
Can We Use It For Building Materials?
Further research done by RMIT also looked the possibility to turn used face mask into buildings construction. Even though the study has not reached its final conclusion, but it showed positive early results.
And since there are so many buildings are built every single day, even during this pandemic, all over the world, it can contribute two main things to the planet. First is a good material to build the buildings, second is a good way to dispose the used mask. In this case, circular economy can be laid upon.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has not only created a global health and economic crisis but has also had dramatic effects on the environment. If we can bring circular economy thinking to this massive waste problem, we can develop the smart and sustainable solutions we need,” Professor Jie Li, the leader of the study, stated.