The last year of pandemic has taught us that the same way nature gives, it takes away as well. It’s also brought a new normal: Masks, hand sanitizers, and social distancing. From practical use and a fashion accessory, face masks have become the norm already. But most face masks are made from plastic, and are single-use, adding to our already colossal plastic generation. The five most commonly found items were bottles, polystyrene packaging, lighters, disposable cutlery and straws. Now masks are also floating onto beaches and shorelines, and polluting our water bodies. But what if they weren’t as threatening to the environment? What if masks could help the environment rather than harm it?
A Bengaluru-based engineer has manufactured a 100% biodegradable mask, that also helps the environment. Roshan Ray, an engineer from Bengaluru came up with the of making masks out of seed papers. Ray already manufactures seed paper - the paper that has seeds in it that germinates and grows once discarded. But paper per se isn’t flexible and sturdy to make a mas, so Ray had to tweak the raw materials. Ray made his masks from tons of waste cloth that garment factories dump into landfill, and created special paper from this.
This garment generated waste-cloth can be treated and made into biodegradable paper. Seeds of herbs like tulsi, marigold and others are added while making this paper. Since they are made of cloth, they are flexible and stronger than regular handmade paper. Instead of elastic bands, Khadi or Jute threads are used to make the ear loops in the masks. Making it 100% sustainable, even the print on the mask is done with sustainable ink. It makes the mask a 100% biodegradable product. Even after a mask is discarded, in a few weeks the seeds sprout and grow into plants. The paper in itself acts as manure for the seedling.
This invention effectively addresss more than one source of pollution: Firstly, the waste cloth generated from garments, and then the hazardous mask discard.
“These masks can be used until one feels suffocated in them," Roy tells News18.
“Rhe herbal seeds in them continue to add their benefits and aroma into each breath. Instead of ending up in trashcans, roads and water bodies, they decompose in a few weeks and grow into useful herbs. What could have been better amidst these times when all we need is a mask?" he adds.
It is estimated that India alone adds 3 million masks to the trash site on a single day. With alternative options like these, that whole big chunk of pollutant can be contained. Seed masks are already on-demand online and abroad. Orders are pouring in from Mexico, Canada, Netherlands and the US. People are also asking for specific seeds to be added to the masks so that they can gift them to their loved ones.