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In a bid to provide cheap, eco-friendly yet effective face masks for the public, the DOST- Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI), in partnership with Quanta Paper Marketing Inc. of Mandaluyong City, is producing disposable face masks made from durable paper towels. The paper towels can also serveas inserts to cloth face masks for added filtration against air-borne contaminants.

Made of 100% virgin pulp, the FPRDI face mask is durable and biodegradable.

“The FPRDI disposable facemasks (FDFs) use paper towels from imported virgin pulp and are sterilized thru UV light exposure”, explained researcher Adela S. Torres. According to her, paper products made from 100% virgin pulp are consideredpremium since they donot contain any recycled substance, and are biodegradable.

The FDFs are an improved version of the Do-It-Yourself (DIY), no-sew disposable paper towel face masks seen in the Internet. Prior to sewing, the FDFs are folded downwards so that when stretched, the wearer’s nose down to the chin istotally covered. Flexible wires are also attached at the mid-upper portion of the masks to maintain shape.

Led by Ms. Adela S. Torres (in blue), the DOST-FPRDI team delivered disposable face masks to Brgy. Batong Malake in Los Banos, Laguna on 10 June 2020.

“We want to provide an option to those who cannot afford surgical and other more expensive face masks. Our masks only cost Php 6.50 apiece and can easily be sewn at home. Their production can even be a source of income for those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic,” she explained.

Also, the FDFs are a greener option than single-use surgical facemasks. Scientists fear the gigantic amounts of surgical masks improperly disposed during this pandemic can result in a huge ecological disaster as these are made from plastic that can take hundreds of years to decompose.

To help address this problem, the DOST-FPRDI research team has prepared a research proposal on biodegradable medical facemasks from abaca, bamboo and local fibrous materials, set to be conducted next year.

The first batch of FDFs have already been donated to some hospitals, cooperatives, and local government units in Los Banos, Bay, Cabuyao, Lumban and Calauan, Laguna. More shall be produced and distributed in the months to come. ### (Apple Jean C. Martin- de Leon, 12 June 2020 [revised 12 October 2020])