With face masks becoming the primary personal protective equipment during COVID-19, their production and usage has significantly increased. However, their extensive use has posed several environmental challenges. Most of these are of single-use and contain plastics or other derivatives of plastics, further generating millions of tons of plastic waste.
To address the issue, a Bengaluru-based engineer and cco-friendly entrepreneur has created 100 percent biodegradable masks.
Roshan Ray has manufactured seed paper and is the founder of Seed Paper India. They convert old clothes into biodegradable paper. It has seeds artfully embedded in them that germinate and grow once sown after use.
Ray uses waste clothes that garment factories dump into landfills. This cloth is converted into biodegradable paper. The seeds added are of tulsi, marigold and other herbs.
This paper is flexible and more substantial than regular handmade paper. For the ear loops, Ray uses khadi or jute threads instead of plastic. The paper is also used to make visiting/wedding cards that can later be sowed in a pot as plants, vegetables or flowers.
In addition, the print on the mask is done using sustainable ink, making the product 100 percent biodegrable.
Once discarded, it is buried under a thin layer of soil, and in a few weeks, the seeds sprout and grow into plants. The paper in itself acts as manure for the seedling.
This single innovation effectively addresses more than one source of pollution: the waste cloth generated from garments to the waste dumped into water bodies.
"The herbal seeds in them continue to add their benefits and aroma into each breath. Instead of ending up in trash cans, 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?," Ray told News18.
"These masks can be used until one feels suffocated in them," he added. Ray's story has also been featured on the government's Atma Nirbhar Bharat website.
Reportedly, India alone adds 3 million masks to the trash site every day. With such inventions, pollutants can be contained. Seed masks are already in demand online and abroad, with orders pouring in from Mexico, Canada, Netherlands and the US. People are also asking for specific seeds to be added to the masks for gifting them to their loved ones.