Sustainable Solutions in Hemp: Biodegradable Face Masks

by | Oct 29, 2020

The environment plays an essential role in the health of all animals and humans. The COVID 19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in most large scale industries as well as in many homes. But what of the effect on the environment?

Although the disruptions the pandemic has wrought brought many industries to its knees, the pandemic has dramatically impacted the environment. Popular videos swirling around social media show canals in Venice flowing clear, causing many to rejoice at the chance for nature to rebound. However, the pandemic has also hindered green initiatives’ efforts and disrupted sustainable climate-friendly research and development investments.

Hemp Solution for Face Masks

Millions of disposable masks are provided almost daily- whether being sold or handed out. While masks may serve an essential purpose, they also contribute to excessive waste and are not environmentally friendly. The continued production of single-use plastics is not sustainable. Single-use plastic masks already litter the shores of many coastlines. Many conservationists have spoken out about the disposable face masks already scattered among the seabed and spotted along the shoreline, warning these masks are adding fuel to an already raging fire battering marine life.

Companies have recognized the importance of designing eco-friendly masks with the prospect of a looming pandemic for months to come. A company from France has created a sustainable solution in the form of biodegradable hemp face masks.

French company Geochanvre has recently made waves amongst the negative news headlines for their biodegradable hemp face masks. Frédéric Roure is the founding president of Geochandre, and he believes that local agricultural materials should be used in place of polyethylene products. Roure is also vocal about the continued use of polyethylene materials used to create products that are then sent off all over the globe, many of which end up littering and suffocating fragile ecosystems.

According to Reuters TV, Roure says it is “heresy” that the polyethylene products and materials are still permitted. His solution? Use local agricultural materials that can return to the earth and soil in place of single-use plastics, products, and materials.

Hemp products have circulated the marketplace for the past decade, and new technologies are being funded for more sustainable hemp pulping and processing. Face masks made from natural materials, biodegradable, and compostable fibers are being made throughout the globe as concern mounts for the continued use of disposable masks. According to Waste Free Oceans, a single disposable plastic mask could end up floating in the ocean for four and a half centuries before it finally begins to decompose. With approximately 129 billion disposable face masks being used every month, there is a severe threat looming over the world’s oceans.

How the Biodegradable Hemp Face Mask is Made

Besides its efficiency for protection, one of the most critical elements of a face mask is comfort. While having a high safety profile should be an essential element of a good face mask, comfort plays an important function. Studies show that the less comfortable a mask is, the less likely a person will wear it correctly. Therefore, comfort is a crucial feature for face masks. These hemp face masks use a blended corn fiber for the lining and a recyclable elastic band to find the perfect fit.

Where does hemp fit in?

Hemp fiber bales are processed into flat sheets using compressors and rollers. These hemp sheets are hardened and made compact through the compressors. The rollers ensure they are uniform, flat sheets that can be cut into a mask template. These templates are then folded, by hand, into masks. The corn lining is fitted along with a recyclable elastic band. Everything in the mask, from the shell to the elastic, can be placed in the earth to return to the soil, using local agriculture from the rural area surrounding the Geochanvre factory.

According to the manufacturer, the Geochanvre mask is a pioneer model for an ethical and ecological face mask. The 100% vegetable filter is performance controlled by the DGA and fits into the UNS 2 category.

Who is Geochanvre?

Based in Lézinnes, France, Geochanvre is an industrial manufacturer with a focus on sustainable development. The firm is rooted in zero-waste ideals, aiming to standardize the industrial industry with natural, bio compostable and biodegradable geotextiles. Having already developed their compostable material, the team at Geochanvre realized the need for a greener alternative to the single-use plastic face mask dilemma. The face mask has become an essential part of life across the globe- and Geochandre has seemed to not only offer a greener alternative but offer an eco-friendly option for mask filters as well.

Hemp: an Efficient Bioplastic

Hemp is a rewarding crop; with prolific growth and efficiency. The plant can be applied in various industries, from bioplastics to food. Bioplastics made from hemp are lightweight and, due to their biodegradable nature, could be set to replace typical plastics.

Hemp plastics take up to 6 months to decompose. Compare that to the 450 years that it takes for a typical oil-based plastic, and it comes as no surprise hemp is looking set to take over from petrochemical plastics as the go-to material for production.