What will we use to pave the road in the future? Could be the mask
In the past three years, in order to prevent the further spread of the virus, masks have become an essential item for people, and disposable gloves and other products have been used widely, even now in some Asian countries. You not only find them in the streets and lanes but also in the natural environment and the ocean.
In September 2020, zoologists found a penguin corpse off the coast of Brazil. After the autopsy, they found the complete N95 mask in his stomach. As you can see from the picture below, this mask is about the same size as a penguin’s. Based on the migration path, environmentalists speculated that this helpless penguin would have followed its team from southern Argentina to forage, but mistakenly swallowed the mask as food on the way home. A large piece of the item was stuck in its body, which couldn’t be vomited out, nor could it be discharged. Death was its ultimate destination.
Additionally, the little pufferfish can hardly escape the damage caused by the masks. In the waters off Miami in the United States, pufferfish have been killed by the masks. According to a video taken by a netizen, the pufferfish body was found in an inflated state and was tightened tightly by the mask strap. Pufferfish generally “inflate” when they encounter predators, but a huge mask is enough to make the pufferfish think that it is a threat to their life. Before it died, it wanted to get out of danger through inflation, but it did not expect this would only tighten the mask further. It is conceivable that it once struggled to survive, and in the end, died in despair and pain.
According to the “Masks on the Beach” report released by OceansAsia, the number of masks produced globally in 2020 is estimated to be 52 billion, of which about 1.56 billion masks would flow into the ocean. Based on the average weight of a mask of three or four grams, this has caused an additional 4680–6240 tons of marine plastic pollution. The World Conservation Organization (WWF) has also shown that if 1% of the masks used are not disposed of properly, 10 million masks will pollute the environment every month. So, how do humans actually deal with this? First of all, we have to have a certain understanding of what this mask is made of and why it can cause damage.
Most masks are not plain cloth but instead plastic. The medical-surgical mask cover consists of two layers of unwoven fabric inside and outside and a layer of melted fabric in the middle. The outer layer has an anti-dropping effect, the middle layer has a filtering function, and the inner layer mainly absorbs the liquid and moisture released by the wearer. When we accidentally pile masks up in the ocean in tons, we know that after the cycle, plastic particles will enter our stomachs. Fish eat plastic garbage, and people eat fish, thus forming perfect bioaccumulation.
Studies have shown that about 50% of the human body contains microplastics. Breathing, drinking, and eating may ingest microplastics from within the human body. Although the impact of microplastics on human health is still unclear, the pollution problem with microplastics is imminent.
So is there a better way of dealing with masks?
- The French startup Plaxtil has provided solutions for surgical masks, fabric masks, and FFP2 masks. It conducted a pilot program in Chatellerault, France, where nearly 100,000 masks were recycled. Co-founder Olivier Civil said: “We have set up 50 collection points in pharmacies, stores, and shopping malls. We remove the metal rods from the masks and grind them until the crushed masks are thoroughly purified through the ultraviolet tunnel. “We then turn these fragments into PLAXTIL materials that are injected into the injection molding machine to obtain protective objects for Covid-19: mask fasteners, door openers, protective masks, etc.”
2. Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia has developed a product made from waste plant materials, such as bagasse and other agricultural waste. The initial goal was to develop biodegradable anti-pollution masks. The current idea is that it can also be used for COVID-19 protection because the highly breathable nanocellulose material can remove particles smaller than 100 nanometers (virus size).
3. Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia have developed a new material that hopes to use masks for road construction, but the technology is still in development. The material combines shredded disposable masks with recycled concrete aggregate (RCA). Substances made from scraps of demolished buildings, such as concrete blocks, are crushed and reused. This new material not only gives new life to some of the 6.8 billion masks that researchers estimate are used every day around the world, but it can also make roads stronger and sustain longer, according to this research.
Whether it’s the use of masks to pave the road or the reuse of materials, these seemingly mind-boggling ideas tackle these “toxic problems” that are the cause of the world’s pollution problems. Not only can these scientists reinvent masks, but we can also recycle them too. Masks can be combined with other materials to make handbags, aprons, cushions for flower pots, hair bands, shoelaces, and other items. Comment below about what ideas you have for reusing masks.
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Originally published at http://socialinnovatorshome.com on September 15, 2021.