Story at a glance

  • Last year, millions of single-use face masks were discarded around the world.
  • Many of the discarded masks have been found polluting the coastal waters of places like California and clogging landfills.
  • A Netherlander recently launched a line of biodegradable face masks that could help solve this issue.

Wearing a face mask has become a regular part of life during the last year, as Americans continue to protect themselves from the threat of the coronavirus. 

Unless you’re wearing washable masks, though, where are all of these single-use products ending up? A study published last summer in the journal Environmental Science & Technology estimated that 129 billion masks and 65 billion plastic-containing gloves have been used globally each month, with “a significant portion” ending up in the world’s oceans.

Luckily, one woman in the Netherlands has now come up with an innovative alternative for those who prefer to toss their masks regularly, rather than purchase reusable cloth ones. Marianne de Groot-Pons, a graphic designer living and working in Utrecht, created 100 percent biodegradable masks that she makes out of natural materials such as rice paper and sheep’s wool. 

On her website, Groot-Pons says: “All these years I have been working as a graphic designer I have used so many resources from nature to be able to make my drawings (especially paper), so I wanted to give it back to her.”

"For weeks I fell on blue disposable masks, thrown on the streets and sidewalks, so I woke up one morning with the idea of ​​a biodegradable face mask with flower seeds on it. Thus, the earth remains happy, the bees, nature, people also happy,” she said. “I am selling the mask with the name Marie Bee Bloom. And the world will flourish!"

Besides the environmentally friendly nature of the masks, Groot-Pons took the design a step even further by embedding her masks with flower seeds. Once you’ve gotten enough wear out of them, users can simply plant the entire mask. The result they will hopefully see is new growth soon poking through the soil. 

These paper and seed masks include cord made from sheep’s wool rather than typical elastic bands, and even the ink used by Groot-Pons to print the logo is eco-friendly. This means that even if you misplace your mask or accidentally drop it on the street, you can be sure that it will not cause harm to the environment.


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Published on Mar 13, 2021