Reusable Face Masks – The Sustainable Solution

10/7/2020

Covid-19 has quickly taught us that we must find a new way to protect ourselves and others. The importance of wearing face masks has been stressed by scientists around the world to prevent the transmission of the virus.

 

The environmental cost of Covid-19

Unfortunately, this new way of moving in the world has come at a price for the planet. Increased use of disposable face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) has seen a massive increase in disposable waste. Much of this is plastic waste, which is only adding to the ongoing environmental crisis the world faces with plastic pollution. Conservationists have warned that we could see a surge in ocean pollution that will accelerate the threat to marine life.


Major risks from discarded single-use face masks

Medical face masks contain large amounts of a type of commodity plastic called polypropylene. This takes a long time to degrade and releases many toxic substances in the process.

 

If disposable masks are not discarded properly, they will have a significant detrimental effect on marine ecosystems. These masks have a lifespan of 450 years, releasing plastic particles into rivers and oceans as they degrade. Scientists and conservation groups consider them to be an “ecological timebomb” causing a build-up of harmful substances in the food chain for years to come, eventually affecting human health.

 

While we are fighting a significant short-term health crisis, we cannot afford to forget about another long-term environmental crisis. One that is not just about the health of the planet but is also ultimately linked to the health of its people.

 

Choosing a reusable face mask

Experts state that unless you are on the front lines as a health professional or essential worker, you do not require a medical grade disposable mask. The NZ Government has also explicitly stated that most people can use non-medical grade masks.

 

“Choosing to wear a reusable face mask

is a choice for people and planet.”

 

The issue of plastic waste is a key focus of Deane’s sustainability journey and one that we are constantly looking for ways to address. So, given our expertise in clothing manufacturing, it was a natural fit for us to adapt this expertise to making reusable face masks.

 

How effective are non-medical grade masks?

Filtration effectiveness of cloth masks varies widely and depends on a number of factors. Protection is improved by the selection of material, increasing the number of mask layers, and a design providing filtration and fit.

  

The Deane reusable face masks offer 3 layer protection. The outer layer and inside layer are a bamboo jersey knit fabric consisting of 95% bamboo viscose and 5% spandex. This eco-friendly fabric is not only silky soft and comfortable to wear, but also offers a snug fit aided by adjustable ties. The membrane sitting inside these layers is a 100g woven polyester with water resistant finish grade 4 - a tightly woven fabric which is important for effective filtration.

 

 

Deane masks have been tested for filtration of droplets which are the vehicle that transports bacteria and viruses. The filtration efficiency is 73% following the EN149 standard, which is very good for a non-medical grade mask.

 

The sustainable choice

The Deane reusable masks come in 3 sizes for optimal fit and are sold in packs of 10. As with our entire clothing range, branding is available. You can order here.

 

If you would like more information about the NZ Government advice on face masks you can find it here - https://covid19.govt.nz

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