To curb the onslaught of plastic waste brought by single-use masks, scientists at the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT) have developed a 100% biodegradable mask filter that can easily decompose and protect against COVID-19 at the same time.
Made from non-woven polybutylene succinate (PBS) material, the eco-friendly filter is easier to breathe through since it's made from crisscrossed layers of fabric one nanometer wide and one micrometer thick.
In terms of their protection against viruses, the biodegradable filters pose a similar effect to the N95 masks, as the PBS is coated with microscopic nanowhisker tech that can block 98.3 percent of all viruses. When subject to composting soil, tests have also found that the mask can fully decompose in around 28 days.
“We believe biodegradable masks are the answer to this problem,” said KRICT’s Research Center for Bio‐Based Chemistry professor Sung Yeon Hwang. “Contaminated plastic masks are difficult to recycle and must be incinerated or sent to a landfill.”
With the pandemic causing the accumulation of garbage from single-use masks, KRICT's breakthrough could have a positive effect on the planet's plastic pollution problem.
"While we need to be very conscious of the health implications, we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted," said microplastics expert Dr. Christian Dunn on the virus' environmental impact.
"COVID will eventually go away, plastic waste won't, it's here forever."