A Vietnamese company has created what it says is the world’s first biodegradable face mask comprised almost entirely of discarded waste from large-scale coffee manufacturers.
Branded AirX, the mask is made using coffee waste collected from huge Vietnamese coffee factories, which is then spun into yarn to create a covering that is antibacterial, reusable and biodegradable.
Two months after launching, the company has already sold more than 500,000 masks, which are on sale for around US$4 (RM17) apiece. It’s also exporting them to 10 different countries, in addition to its made-from-coffee ShoeX footwear, costing around US$90 (RM385) or more.
Veritas Bespoke founder Thanh Le began developing the masks in late 2019 after Hanoi experienced its worst period of air pollution in five years.
This inevitably led to increased usage of disposable masks and, in turn, further environmental damage from littering and overflowing landfills.
Dandelly Nguyen, a company representative, says that even before the coronavirus outbreak, people in Vietnam were already using more and more one-time medical masks.
“But they didn’t realise that this doubled levels of pollution. By that time, we’d already begun researching how to turn recycled coffee into masks that are eco-friendly, fashionable and antibacterial.”
Within weeks, the Covid-19 pandemic brought fresh urgency to their development, and the makers say interest in their new masks has increased dramatically.
“Then, when Covid-19 started in Wuhan, we pushed production harder to create the coffee masks because we were sure the demand would increase crazily.”
Now selling their masks since March this year, Veritas Bespoke says this is its long-term business, not just a short-term one during the pandemic.
The need for environmentally friendly face masks has grown increasingly evident as the coronavirus pandemic continues to afflict the globe.
In March, Hong Kong-based marine conservation group Oceans Asia made headlines after releasing images of surgical face masks littering the region’s coastline. In France, authorities have already ordered over two billion masks.
According to Laurent Lombard, a snorkeller and rubbish collector for Operation Mer Propre, a French non-profit that regularly picks up litter in the Cote d’Azur, there is a “risk of having more masks than jellyfish in the Mediterranean.”
For over three months, wearing face masks in crowded areas and on public transport has been mandatory in Vietnam, as well as in many other countries outside of Asia. – dpa/Chris Humphrey