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Have you been to a public place lately, perhaps to buy groceries and other essential needs? Were you required to sanitize your hands and footwear first before entering?

The DOST - Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI) is developing prototypes of touch-free hand disinfectant dispensers connected to foot baths. Both dispenser and foot bath will be made from bamboo and abaca as sponge— two of the most economically important and widely available resources in the Philippines.

The DOST-FPRDI hands-free disinfectant dispenser releases alcohol upon stepping on the connected footbath. Both dispenser and footbath are made from bamboo, while abaca acts as sponge for disinfecting footwear that presses on the footbath (inset photo).

“Spray- and pump-type alcohols and sanitizers are usually available in most establishments. However, directly touching the dispenser surface can be unsanitary and may potentially lead to virus transmission,” explained Project Leader For. Florena B. Samiano

She and her team are developing three prototypes of pump- and spray-type dispensers and foot baths for low and high-end markets.

Applying basic processing techniques such as drying, treatment, sawmilling and finishing, their first prototype is a low-cost, do-it-yourself unit (as pictured above) that even households and local bamboo farmers can produce. It is currently undergoing modification. The designs of the two other models are being fine-tuned prior to prototyping.

Samiano’s group will initially partner with The Bamboo Company and BalaiKamay —two companies that support community-based organizations in Rizal and Laguna— for prototype replication and design improvement. Once successfully tested and improved, the technology will be opened for adoption of LGUs, cooperatives, and private businessmen.

Source of income for local farmers

“We not only recognize the inherent properties of bamboo and abaca, we also see the importance of tapping these resources to support our small bamboo and abaca growers, and processors,” said DOST-FPRDI Director Romulo T. Aggangan.

According to him, local growers and manufacturers can earn more income with the continuous farming of bamboo and abaca for innovative uses.

“We know that this is a hard time for all of us, and we hope that thru our technologies and newly-developed products, DOST-FPRDI is able to help by creating other livelihood options.”

Meanwhile, Samiano said that the use of natural products such as bamboo and abaca is more eco-friendly than relying on plastic and metal-based products since the former are biodegradable.

DOST-FPRDI supports the sustainable use of local forest resources to come up with products that will help protect the public against COVID-19 infection.

It has so far developed bamboo-framed face shields, and antimicrobial soaps and hand mists, and is currently conducting a series of training and techno-fora to share these technologies to interested adopters.

The no-touch alcohol dispenser and foot bath project is funded by the DOST- Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD). ### (Apple Jean C. Martin- de Leon, 20 Sept 2020)