Face masks were among the top searched items last year, and although the surge in demand has waned off, the protective-gear-turned-fashion-accessory continues to be an integral part of our everyday lives. However, its impact goes beyond the protection it provides. Take a run down the street and there’s probably one kicked to the curb. Walk a beach, and you’re most likely to see another soaked in the sand.
“Soon we’ll run the risk of having more masks than jellyfish in the Mediterranean,” said Laurent Lombard of French non-profit Opération Mer Propre in a Facebook post and quoted in The Guardian. Ocean pollution from merely protecting ourselves is very much real – all of the single-use face masks and gloves do eventually end up somewhere.
In order to combat what The New York Times quotes chief executive of Keep America Beautiful Helen Lowman deeming as “a real shift in what is in the litter stream,” personal protective apparel brand G95 has produced what it claims as the first single-use face mask made using 100% plant-based materials, including the ear loops, the nose bridge, and the brand’s built-in filtration technology.
“Several years ago, we began developing a special version of our filtration material. After we saw the damage discarded PPE was doing to our oceans worldwide in 2020, we put things into overdrive to bring that special material to market,” the brand says on its product page.
Dubbed the G95 Oceanshield, the new eco-alternative to the face mask is a rated FFP2 for protection and meant to biodegrade in 90 days. However, disposing of it isn’t solely on you. The technology apparel start-up offers its signature return system allowing for Oceanshield wearers to return worn facemasks back to the G95 at no cost so it can properly recycle them.
Overall, G95 has a commitment in using sustainable materials such as organic hemp and cotton blend throughout its lightweight, warm weather products. The Oceanshield mask however, is made with polylactic acid and a bio-based spandex.
Additionally, G95 produces other gear out of post-consumer recycled water bottles. The brand launched its first product called the Bioscarf in 2018 as a way to integrate filters into normal clothing. G95 founder Hazel Solle developed the idea after her husband became sick during a 2015 trip in China. Face masks were the remedy for any traveler or everyday commuter through cities with heavy air pollution, but Solle wanted to change that. “When my husband arrived home and told me what had happened and that these masks were going to be the new normal for travelers and folks who live in big cities around the world. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and feeling like there had to be something better,” she says.
In other material news, Bolt Threads has partnered with Ginkgo Bioworks to Improve manufacturing efficiency and sustainability of its cruelty-free b-silk.