Experts all over the world are urging people to wear face masks, as one of the precautionary measures for safety from the coronavirus; however, the safety equipment is also a cause for pollution.
Bothered by the waste caused by disposable face masks, many of which are made of polypropylene, a South Korean student Kim Ha-neul, who is majoring in furniture design, has come up with an eco-friendly solution, melting them to make stools, which can be used for sitting.
“Plastic is recyclable, so why don’t we recycle face masks, which are made of plastic?” the 23-year-old student said.
In June, Kim set up a mask collection box at his school, the Kaywon University of Art and Design in Uiwang city, south of Seoul. He has since gathered 10,000 used masks, and has received more than a tonne of defective ones from a factory as well.
To lessen the risk of coronavirus transmission, Kim keeps them in storage for at least four days. Then, removing elastic bands and wires, he wields a heat gun over the masks in a mould, melting them down at temperatures over 300 degrees Celsius (570 degrees Fahrenheit).
The result? Three-legged stools 45cm (18 inches) recycled from white, pink, blue and black masks, which Kim displayed in his graduation exhibition.
Next, Kim hopes to make other furniture pieces from the recycled masks such as a chair, table or some lights. He is also urging the government and private companies to recycle face masks by setting up a separate box for their collection.