Why throw your face masks when you can plant them
Can you imagine seeing more face masks in the ocean than jellyfishes? That will be the next new normal for the environment if world leaders, and regular citizens, continue to look over the pandemic’s ecological hazards. The rise of what is called “Covid waste,” which primarily includes soiled medical grade face masks, puts environmental watchdogs on their feet in campaigning for more ethical ways to combat the coronavirus.
“We find the careless disposal of dirty face masks in the streets very alarming,” says Jove Benosa, zero waste campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition. “The IATF and local government authorities should take immediate action to prevent these potentially infectious materials from harming human health and threatening aquatic life.”
That is why many sustainable brands are looking at the potential of local fibers in solving the problem. Together with Junk Not Eco Creatives, sustainable brand Tuy Arts and Design thinks of other solutions to address face mask disposal and get people’s attention about it. Since urban gardening has been an avenue for many to spend their time at home, taking used face masks away from the bin and into potted soil is the next best step.
“Originally, our company manufactures handmade paper. At the start of the quarantine we thought of giving face masks made out of it to frontliners here in Tuy, Batangas and nearby towns,” says Tuy Art and Design’s Anna Marie Afable. “Putting seeds in handmade paper is the idea of Willie Garcia of Junk Not.”
With their Plant Your Mask initiative, the two created an earth-friendly face mask called Koobly. Derived from the word “kubli,” which means “cover,” Koobly features Tuy Art and Design’s signature product, which is abaca paper. Inside it are vegetable seeds to encourage wearers to start their own urban garden, while minimizing the use of non-recyclable surgical face masks.
“Our company is working with the wives of sugarcane farmers and we get our materials from the waste of a company making abaca carpets in Bauan, Batangas,” Anna tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “Since our masks are infused with seeds, planting them is better than throwing them away.”
People can choose from pechay, chili, and mustard seeds, which are vegetable plants that could easily grow in the metro. Their advice is to use the masks for a couple of days, wash or disinfect them before and after every use, and keep them in an envelope. If the masks are visibly dirty and torn, then that’s the time to plant them. Don’t forget to remove the garters.
“Thanks to abaca pulp being biodegradable, the masks will not add to the tons of non-biodegradable masks that have made it to the ocean,” she says. “These masks eliminate the harmful effects that can endanger the already threatened marine ecosystem.”
Visit @junk_not_concept_store on Instagram and www.junknotconceptstore.com to purchase a Koobly face mask.