Face masks with ocean plastic
As increasing the demand for masks due to the pandemic of COVID-19, PADI, an educational institution for scuba diving, has developed face masks that can be repeatedly washed and used. The raw materials for the lovely fabric with whale sharks and manta rays drawn are polyester made from recycled ocean plastic. This is an epoch-making attempt to prevent plastic pollution in the ocean while also preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The face masks are produced at the company’s factory in Latvia in partnership with Rash’R, a marine sports clothing manufacturer. For the fabric, a product made by Ocean Balance that specializes in recycling plastics into wearable materials is used. It can be estimated that approximately 570kg or more of marine plastics have been removed based on the orders placed so far.
The double-layered face masks use 100% recycled polyester for the outer fabric and 92% recycled polyester and 8% elastane for the lining fabric. It is excellent in quick-drying, has a filter pocket for PM2.5 carbon filters, and includes five filters as attached. However, the performance of the filter is not medical grade such as N95 surgical masks. There are two sizes for adults and children, and the price ranges from 2100 to 2800 yen. PADI will sell the face masks at cost and gain no profit.
Due to the effects of COVID-19, the manufacturing of plastic products such as masks, gloves, and protective clothing is rapidly increasing on a global scale. It is said that light plastic products such as plastic bags and gloves have a high probability of not being properly treated and stream into the sea. Marine protection groups concern that such newly manufactured plastic products will be discarded and become microplastics in the sea.
They also concern that the priority will be given to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and that efforts to reduce plastic waste will be secondary and delayed. In fact, in the UK, the charge for the shopping bags, which was scheduled to be introduced, has been postponed, and the use of reusable products has been prohibited in retail chains such as Starbucks. The increasing number of plastic products is not only ones for medical use. It is said that the number of restaurants which offer take-out and home delivery services is increasing, and the usage of plastic containers, spoons, and forks is also increasing.
While new lifestyles are being sought, at the same time improving the economy, it is required for us to consider not to spoil the deplasticization efforts that have been made.