The other day I was reading an article published in a renowned news website which said that soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the oceans and other water bodies.
And it is a clear indication that the coronavirus pandemic is not only a threat to humans but marine life as well.
Heaps of gloves, masks, hand sanitizer bottles, and other medical wastes are piling under the waves. This is an indication of the onset of a new type of pollution if nothing is done.
Since there is clear evidence that wearing a mask can lower the chances of contracting the coronavirus, masks are the new normal for all of us.
The earth is already in distress due to pollution and global warming; thus, we must not transfer our troubles (the pandemic) to it now.
The lockdown during the pandemic is giving the earth time and a chance to heal itself. We must not mess it up for once. And it is time to make sure the mask we use to protect ourselves doesn’t harm our nature.
Disadvantages of Using Single Use Masks
Single-use masks are usually manufactured using polypropylene which does not break down or decomposes easily.
Polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer and is widely used due to its chemical resistance. This plastic is the safest of plastics and is considered safe for human use, but it is not eco-friendly.
This plastic causes severe harm to marine life as it does not disappear but breaks down slowly into micro-plastic. This micro-plastic enters the food chains when marine animals accidentally ingest it.
The toxins from the plastic can kill marine animals causing their population to reduce and ultimately disappear. This can cause an imbalance in the ecosystem.
Using multi-use masks is the way forward. Masks made of fabric can be used more than once and can be washed if dirty.
Multi-Use Fabric Masks
The first fabric that comes to my mind is cotton. It is a breathable, absorbent, and comfortable fabric that is easily available to us.
Cotton masks advantages
- It is easy to
- Cotton fabric is hypoallergenic. This means that cotton does not trigger or cause skin or breathing
- This fabric lasts longer as it is
- Cotton doesn’t emit odors and is
- Cotton if not blended with any other material does not stretch and lose
Although cotton is good fabric, the cultivation process involves steps that are harmful to us as well as the environment.
Here are a few things that make cotton cultivation unhealthy for humans and the ecosystem:
- Cotton crops require a lot of water to
- The amount of chemicals sprayed on the cotton plant is the highest in the cotton
Also, when they mix with the soil it can strip its nutrients away.
A better alternative for cotton is the lesser-known hemp fabric. It is a misunderstood crop due to its classification under the Cannabis Sativa family.
Why use Hemp Masks During This Pandemic?
There are several reasons to do so. Although this fabric from the hemp plant has been in use for several centuries, due to its connection to the marijuana family, several misconceptions surround it.
Here are a few facts that make hemp a super crop:
- It can grow anywhere in the world, and in many types of
- It can be cultivated without pesticides, insecticides, and
- It kills weeds, purifies soil, and is perfect for rotation use, due to its short harvest cycle (120 days).
- It flourishes in rainwater and does not need excess water to
- The roots of the hemp plant go deep into the soil and act as a natural soil aerator and prevent soil
- Hemp plants can be grown in the same soil for at least twenty years without adding any fertilizers or crop rotation. Interestingly, this super crop enhances the soil richness than before the plant was
- Once the crop is harvested, the farmer mixes the roots and leaves back into the soil to keep the soil rich in
- Hemp crop is ready for harvesting within four months of planting
- It can grow on small pieces of land suitable for
- Hemp crops can be harvested several times a
- Hemp plants are the only plant species that can capture high amounts of carbon from the environment making it pollution-free.
325 kgs of carbon can be easily absorbed by a ton of this plant.
All parts of the hemp plant from seeds to roots can be utilized. In fact, hemp fiber can be used to generate strong, durable, and environment-friendly plastic substitutes such as masks.
How are hemp masks better than other fabric masks?
Hemp is a clear winner when it comes to sustainable masks because of its versatility and durability. Hemp plants utilize less than 50% of water than cotton crops making it an environmentally favorable fabric.
That hemp has the strongest and the longest plant fiber in the world - has been the biggest learning of my life in the past decade. Hemp is also resistant to rotting and abrasion. And during ancient times it was used to manufacture sails of boats.
Another very important reason for adding hemp masks in your wardrobe is that it is biodegradable. It hardly takes a few weeks to a couple of months to decompose, while cotton masks may take more than five months to biodegrade.
So here is a fabric that is not only eco-friendly to cultivate but easier to decompose.
Here are a few facts to prove that hemp is the fabric to use to protect ourselves and the earth during this pandemic:
- Fabric made from hemp is stronger and durable than cotton. And the best part is that the more you wash hemp fabric the softer it gets, unlike other fabrics that may start withering with each
- Hemp fabric is resistant to bacteria and mold growth. Thus, masks made from hemp can be worn multiple times without the need to wash it immediately. This can help save water (usable), which is slowly disappearing from the
- Highly resistant to termite, chemical, and to a great extent fire as
- UV resistant. This characteristic of the hemp fabric saves your skin from skin burns and darkening.
- Low elasticity makes it retain its shape at all
- Hemp fabric can easily blend with other fabrics and synthetic
- Long lifespan due to the strength of the
- Resistant to
- Hemp fabric has thermoregulation abilities that mean that you can wear this fabric around the year. It keeps your skin cool during winters and warms during
- The tensile strength of this fabric is quite high due to which it does not tear or stretch
- Last but not the least, hemp is a biodegradable fabric. If your hemp mask reaches the end of its life, cut it, and throw it in the compost It will decompose within a few weeks.
Hemp fabric can be reused until you want because it does not easily tear. Using hemp masks is the most effective way to promote sustainability.
There isn’t any other fabric that can be used multiple times for several years without wear and tear and can quickly decompose when added to the compost pile.
With so many advantages of using hemp masks, we must go the hemp way as soon as possible.
Author Bio: Vishal Vivek, Co-founded the NGO Hemp Foundation to increase awareness about hemp which is the most misunderstood plant on the planet. He believes that we can fight climate change, water crisis, and plastic pollution with Hemp. Times Group recognized him as a legendary entrepreneur and published his biography in I Did IT- Vol 2 at the age of just 30!