Filament from the banana tree fiber (Abaca) in the Philippines can replace the plastic component of the millions of masks that the world is producing to combat SARS-CoV-2.
Usually, Abaca fiber is used to produce tea bags and banknotes, has a durability equivalent to polyester but it only takes 2 months to decompose.
Preliminary research by the Philippines Ministry of Science and Technology also shows that Abaca paper is more water resistant than the commercial N-95 mask, and its pore size is completely within the recommended range of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to filter harmful particles.
Since the 19th century, Abaca has been used to make ropes on ships and envelopes. Today, Abaca is used in the production of Mercedes-Benz cars and about 30% of the paper money is circulating in Japan.
According to Mr. Costales, demand for Abaca this year may increase exponentially, of which 10% of production is used for medical purposes, compared with less than 1% last year.
Despite higher production costs compared to other plastic alternatives, Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese health care equipment manufacturers have been ordering Abaca yarn in recent months, raising The output of yarn factories in the Philippines has doubled, said Firat Kabasakalli, General Director of Dragon Vision Trading, an exporter of Abaca yarn.
In addition, a company in the south of the Philippines called Salay Handmade Products Industries, which used to produce paper and cards made from Abaca yarn for export to the United States and Europe, is now also shifting towards exporting pages.
Currently, global efforts to ban single-use plastics are being halted as countries put medical supplies ahead of the environment. According to an article by the United Nations, worldwide sales of disposable masks this year are expected to increase more than 200 times to reach 166 billion USD. Therefore, using Abaca fiber to manufacture masks is an effective solution to reduce plastic waste during a pandemic.