United in Sustainable Face Mask Initiative
Borealis and paper republic Collaborate
Borealis, Vienna/Austria, and paper republic, a Vienna-based stationery brand, have teamed up in a social business initiative, named mask republic, for the production of sustainable and reusable face masks.
The face masks have an integrated plastic-based filter produced by Borealis on a small-scale pilot line at their Innovation Headquarters in Linz. Face mask design, manufacture and sales is being organised by paper republic, with the use of a light cotton fabric provided by fellow Austria-based company Getzner Werkstoffe. The initiative involves providing local and regional tailors, who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a custom-designed kit to assemble these masks from a light cotton fabric.
Higher protection than community masks
mask republic, which has been launched amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will supply face masks across Austria thanks to a reliable network of value chain partners, local and regional government organisations, and NGOs. Testing at Borealis laboratory facilities shows that the mask republic solution provides up to four times more effective filtration than conventional hand-sewn cotton-based face masks. Since washing of the masks does not impact filtration effectiveness, they are perfectly washable and reusable without losing their filtration performance, and therefore help to counter waste.
Demand for effective face masks has increased significantly amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Solutions are required that provide protection against the novel coronavirus, while at the same time enabling wearers to breathe easily. The need for face masks is expected to remain strong as European countries begin to loosen lockdowns and some introduce the mandatory wearing of face masks in public spaces.
New material for fibers
What most people don’t know is that effective face masks typically contain plastic fibres from polypropylene (PP) resins for barrier purposes. Borealis is the leading supplier in Europe for this material. Due to the growing demand for face masks, Borealis recently converted a plastics pilot line at its Linz, Austria, Innovation Headquarters for the small-scale production of fine fibre fabrics for these applications. A newly developed plastics grade is already being used on this line for customised inlays in cotton-based mouth-nose masks, conventional mouth-nose masks, and high-end face masks worn by medical professionals.
mask republic demonstrates the potential for the new plastic fibres in essential products for society at large. “We are very excited to be a part of an initiative through the Borealis Social Fund, that benefits Austrian communities, while enabling us to provide our expertise and material solutions to improve people’s health, and safety, while being resource efficient and preventing waste,” explains Dorothea Wiplinger, Borealis Sustainability & Project STOP Manager.
“This project is a win-win on every level. The innovative Borealis material makes the masks more effective, the design is not only fashionable but also sustainable, and is safely reusable. Furthermore, we are also stimulating local employment. Borealis and paper republic demonstrate what reinventing for more sustainable living looks like,” Wiplinger concludes.
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