In 2021, if there is one thing that each one of us ensures we put on before we leave our homes, it is a mask. While it is imperative to wear masks to stop the spread of the virus, one often forgets to look at the environmental impact of discarded single-use masks.
But Mangalore’s Paper Seed Co. has come up with a rather interesting mask – a seed mask, which when discarded into the soil grows into a plant.
“The need to be safe is intrinsic to us but we seem to be so callous in our attitude towards the animals and environment. The number of discarded masks we find in our cleanup drives is just astonishing,” says Nitin Vas, an environmentalist and social activist based in Karnataka tells The Better India.
“The seed masks are one among the many seed-based products that we produce. Our main objective is to provide a sustainable, eco-friendly alternative to the masks already being used by the public,” he says.
Some of the other products that Paper Seed Co. makes include invitation cards, note pads, visiting cards and even pamphlets which when discarded into the earth grow into plants. He adds that he is a step closer to being a social-entrepreneur with these new masks.
Paper Seed Co. products are made by the villagers from Dakshina Kannada. “We provide the women and youth of rural villages with ample training and also supply them with the raw material to make the products. While a majority of them worked from home, even before the pandemic, some chose to come into the office and work,” he adds. Currently, there are five members from the village working on making seed masks. While these masks are reusable, if well maintained, they are not washable
What is a seed mask?
“The masks being made by us are almost degradable – even the straps are made of cotton. Its USP, however, is that there are seeds embedded in it, which when hit the ground, grow into plants,” says Nitin. Since summer time is not the best time to sow seeds, Nitin says that seeds of tulsi, tomato, okra and other vegetables are being used in the masks.
Since Nitin and his team have been making various products embedded with plant seeds, they used the same technique used for making the seeds masks as well. The masks are made from recycled rags and the inner linings are made with cotton cloth, which are completely degradable. They are thick enough to prevent infection as well,” he says.
While the design for the seed mask was something that Nitin came up with almost 9 months ago, he says, “I was apprehensive about how it would turn out given that our unit is rather small and production is not at a very large scale. We knew our capacity and ability to manufacture masks, so we waited for a good time to launch.”
The seed masks were launched in March 2021 and Nitin says that they did not anticipate such a large and welcoming response. In just a few days after their launch, the organisation got more than 2 lakh orders.
“As of now we only have the bandwidth to deliver 10,000 masks and not more. We are a unit comprising five working members and that is all we can take on now,” adds Nitin. However, he urges organisations across India to collaborate with them to be able to ramp up production. Priced at Rs 25 per mask, they are currently available only in one size to fit adults. So far 1,000 orders have been shipped out.
To reach out to Nitin, please call on +91 90083 92618.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)