Scientists at one research company based in Montreal’s West Island say they have come up with a greener way to protect ourselves against the coronavirus.
Researchers at FPInnovations, a forestry research centre in Pointe Clare, say they have developed a biodegradable face mask. They believe it’s better for the environment than single-use disposable polypropylene models. Center president and CEO Stéphane Rou said the product can biodegrade in about 20 days.
“I take this mask I put it over 50 degrees C, I watch it, it’s gonna decompose in front of you,” he told Global News.
All three layers of the face covering, including the filter, are made from wood fibres, according to the centre’s scientists. They claim the ear loops and the nose piece are also biodegradable. On top of that, they say they have found a way to produce the face coverings on an industrial scale.
“We have a solution that can create millions of masks per day in production,” Renou stated.
He said the next step is to have industry take over and produce them.
“Is it absolutely perfect? No,” he admitted. “But is it close enough to really get it to the last step of it going to industrial production? Absolutely!”
He explained that it will be up to companies to fine-tune the product for their needs.
One environmental expert agrees that a biodegradable mask is better than the conventional polypropylene one, but is cautious.
“If the goal of this mask is to be composted, I think it is a false good idea,” observed Karel Ménard, head of the Quebec Coalition for Ecological Waste Management.
According to him, composting plant workers might not realize the masks are compostable, see them as contamination and throw them out — or worse, burn them, creating a problem the researchers were trying to solve in the first place. Furthermore, he added, the decomposing masks will create bio-gases like methane.
Ménard instead thinks it’s better to recycle single-use masks, many of which he claims are being incinerated for a lot of money.
“If you are ready to pay the high cost to have them recycled, especially in Quebec, why not,” he said.
Renou pointed out, though, that there is no perfect solution and suggested it’s going to be up to each company or municipality to adapt the formula for the masks to their own situation.
According to him, there are companies that have already expressed interest in the product.