With rising cases of coronavirus sending state governments and individuals scrambling for curfews and partial lockdowns, masks have emerged yet again as an essential commodity for the prevention of coronavirus. The wearing of masks has been made mandatory in public with the Delhi High Court making the wearing of masks mandatory in Delhi NCR even when alone inside cars. The increased use of masks, however, has an ecological downside. Covid waste management has emerged as a serious concern not just for restricting the spread of the device but limiting its impact on the environment. To solve that problem, a Karnataka activist has come up with a new type of biodegradable mask that can be planted in the soil and grown into a plant.
The innovative new mask was created by social activist and entrepreneur Nithin Vas who crafted it using layers of biodegradable cotton. The mask is made by first using a layer of cotton-padded with a second layer of a cotton lining. In between the layers, the activist has stuffed seeds of vegetables and flowering plants. Once thrown into the soil, these paper masks dissolve in the soil and then grow into plants.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Vas said, “The mask is eco-friendly and degradable. You can see a huge amount of masks, including the surgical ones, or the ones that you make at home or the towel that you tie. It saves you from the COVID infection or the infection one can contract from various viruses. But the most important thing that we need to remember is that with the conservation of human beings, we also need to worry about the animals, and other aquatic animals because these masks go and reach the oceans, polluting them and also harming the aquatic life".
While the durable masks are coarser than regular surgical or cloth masks, users have been advised to resist washing the masks in water and throwing them away after use as the cotton masks are water-soluble and will turn to mush after a wash.
The problem of surgical waste relating to Covid-19 has for long been plaguing researchers, health experts and environmentalists. Earlier in April, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Mandi developed a novel virus-filtering, self-cleaning and antibacterial material that can be used to make and reuse face masks and other PPE equipment. The new masks can kill microbes, and are solar light-cleanable. It can also filter more than 96 percent of particles that are in the size range of the Covid Virus (120 nanometres), without compromising on the breathability of the fabric, and could thus be a powerful tool to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other microbial infections, according to the study, published in the journal Applied Materials and Interfaces.