We have received many enquiries and concerns about managing the environmental threat of potentially contaminated single use face masks. We understand your concerns about a large amounts being discarded in the general waste to go to landfill, or worse, are littered in the environment.
For those of us who have placed environmental factors as a priority, this is a big concern and goes against many ethical personal or business decisions.
Disposal of single use PPE in the domestic general waste has led to a detrimental impact on our environment. Mismanaged plastic waste pollutes both marine and land environments, and there is a high risk of ingestion or trauma to organisms and contamination of habitats, threatening the safety of our ecosystems.
Sustainable management of plastic-based PPE is challenging, and further research on green materials is paramount. As responsible businesses we should be seeking multidisciplinary input from biomedical and environmental scientists to focus on the reuse and recycling of plastic-based PPE where possible within our working environment, and where contamination is not a potential risk. More importantly, we should be actively encouraging our guests and teams to wear washable, reusable face masks, and shift towards the use of sustainable alternatives wherever possible.
At The SSA we have looked at the best options we can find for spa teams. We have taken advice from Environmental Agencies, looked at the available options and spoken to our industry leaders for their advice.
Here is what EcoBreathe, in partnership with Terracycle, have to say;
How big is the environmental threat?
The WWF estimates that 10 million single-use masks will pollute our oceans each month if just 1% of masks are disposed of incorrectly.
What’s different about EcoBreathe?
Using patent-pending materials and manufacturing processes, EcoBreathe has been designed to meet and exceed the quality and effectiveness standards of it’s non-recyclable counterparts.
How do I recycle?
We include a prepaid return shipping label with every order. Simply collect your masks in a resealable plastic bag, place them back in their box, and post them to us after a 72 hour quarantine period. We will then collect and process them at our warehouse, before shipping them in bulk to one of our recycling partners.
Am I guaranteed the masks will be recycled?
Yes! Once we have recycled your masks, we can request a Reception Report from the relevant local recycling partner to confirm that in fact 100% of the mask has been recycled. If you would like to receive a copy, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
How do I wear the recyclable masks safely?
What size are the masks?
Our Civil Grade and Type IIR 3-Ply Masks measure 9.5cm x 17.5cm and, when fully opened, measure ~14.5cm x 17.5cm. The mask’s height and nose-clip are adjustable and designed to fit any adult human face. All our masks and respirators are unisize and we do not currently offer masks fitted for small children.
How does the return system work?
At the beginning of our programme, you will be supplied with an agreed number of recycling bins to be placed across your facilities. EcoBreathe will provide you with contact details for our logistics teams who can advise you on the use of the boxes and arrange for boxes to be collected and replaced.
The SSA have a arranged an International Partnership with EcoBreathe and in the best interests of the environment, whether your spa is a member or not you will have the benefit of a further 10% off any orders, over and above any other discounts they may have at the time, made through this link.
We spoke to Debbie Leon. Fashionizer were very quick to turn their hands to making reusable and washable fabric masks;
The fabric you used was organic cotton or CPF (a mix of cotton, polyester and lycra) What did your research produce when looking into the protection against the virus of using these materials for face masks?
When we started making our face masks in March, little was known about Covid-19 and the benefits of fabric face masks in non-medical settings – there has been much controversy surrounding whether these should be introduced in public settings. For us, this conversation included research into which construction and materials would be best and how much protection would a well-made fabric mask offer.
We have been developing bespoke fabrics for 26 years and we used this experience plus all the information we found on the internet to come up with our mask designs. We knew that they were well made, but we wanted to be able to measure their benefit in comparison to the disposable surgical masks.
We sent our masks to be tested by Nelson Labs in Salt Lake City, USA, a leading global provider of laboratory testing and expert advisory services for MedTech and pharmaceutical companies. We waited five weeks, and on the 27th of May, we at last got the results of our tests and we are delighted to share them.
PDF of official test results from Nelson Labs here.
What did we test: The ﬁltration eﬃciencies of our masks as a function of stopping aerosol particles from penetrating the mask. This test method has been specifically designed for measuring bacterial filtration efficiency of medical face masks.
How did we test it: Our tests were performed to ASTM F2101 – 19 and BS EN 14683:2019 standard, which specifies the construction, design, performance requirements and test methods for medical face masks intended to limit the transmission of infective agents from staff to patients during surgical procedures and other medical settings with similar requirements.
The testing was performed with the inside of the medical face mask being in contact with the bacterial challenge. With the aerosol challenge directed through either the face side or liner side of the test specimen, thereby, allowing evaluation of filtration efficiencies which relate to both patient-generated aerosols and wearer-generated aerosols.
This is a high-level medical test. 5 masks were compared, so that an average result could be achieved, and the testing could ensure consistency of performance of all our masks.
What are the results: The results indicate that our masks are 77% effective, which is at the top end of the fabric face masks performance, surgical masks start at 70%, and N95 masks offering 95% – 99% protection.
About the fit: One of the reasons that fabric face masks cannot offer the same high level of protection as full medical masks, is the level of fit. We have designed our masks ensuring that they are comfortable to wear in a working environment. They are not meant as medical devices or to be worn in high-risk environments, but we believe they are of benefit in managing the risk of infection in spa or hospitality settings. The tests suggest that they will offer a good level of protection and assist to protect both staff and guests. Cloth masks oﬀer additional sustainability beneﬁts through re-use, thus limiting costs and reducing environmental waste.
Our fabric face masks are made of high-quality fabric and are guaranteed for a minimum of 30 washes. They consist of three layers of fabric, one being a non-woven layer of interlining for filtration.
Here are some recent medical publications about the studies on fabric face masks and their construction. These also indicate why our mixed fibre fabrics seem to yield the best result:
Many spas have chosen to take a dual approach to masks for different team members. For example, fabric masks on reception and plastic medical grade masks only for therapists. Knowing what we know now about the virus would you agree this is a valid approach?
I think this approach is valid for many reasons:
Fabric masks are much more comfortable to wear, do not cause skin irritation.
You can choose a style, colour that fits in with your environment – although still a mask , it looks less medical and more welcoming. ( Although legally disposable masks have to be worn during treatments.)
Cost – reusable masks last many months and are cost effective in the long run. 4 reusable masks will last 50 washes each, that is the equivalent of 200 disposable ones.
Much more sustainable, disposable masks are made from spun polyester which will never biodegrade, and as mentioned, you will be disposing 50 non-biodegradable masks for each reusable one..
Fabric masks can be impregnated with essential oils to assist breathing and make the wearing experience more relaxing with a pleasant smell.
Are there any measures people can take to increase the protection of a fabric mask?
Yes, make sure the mask you are buying:
Has three layers including a filter layer ( which unfortunately will be made from a spun polyester fabric.)
Fits your face well with as few gaps as possible.
Is made from a densely woven fabric ( the looser the weave the larger the gaps for the virus to penetrate)
What is your care advice for using a washable fabric mask?
Wash the mask before you wear it, and after each use at 60°C/140°F, tumble dry.
Masks should be put on and taken off carefully, to avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.
Always remove the face mask from behind and avoid touching the front of the mask.
In addition, it is crucial to thoroughly wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds before taking the masks on and off and again after taking it off.
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