Sustainable face masks: high-recyclable masks made from abaca are now a fact
Masks are sustainable, too: innovation comes from abaca, which is a long-lasting, more ecological and more affordable fibre than synthetics. One of the most common environmental issue in recent months is the disposal of so-called "Personal Protective Equipment" (PPE) such as face masks.
A sustainable alternative is made from a thread used in the Philippines (mainly employed for banknotes and tea bags): the abaca, which is exceptionally resistant like polyester. Unlike plastics, however, the abaca is a highly recyclable material: it is estimated that its decomposition occurs in about two months. Besides, the abaca is also very cheap and is, therefore, a great replacement to masks made out of polyester.
Study and testing in the Philippines
The Philippines is the largest producer of abaca, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The abaca has ancient origins; historically this thread is employed as a rope on boats, thanks to its resistance to saltwater. Moreover, about 30% of banknotes in Japan are made of abaca, as well as some components in Mercedes-Benz cars. Tests, which have been carried out by the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) proved that abaca masks are seven times more efficient at filtering air particles, thus offering better protection than fabric masks.
Abaca masks are now a fact. Many companies which employed this material for different purposes (i.e. greeting cards), now use it to create protective masks. However, the mass production of abaca masks is not a reality (yet). For this to happen in the immediate future, the production has been proposed to increase up to 74,000 tonnes. By fuelling production, this process will also be particularly beneficial for the economic development of communities.