People across the globe have become accustomed to putting on a mask every day, and then taking them off. But now we see them everywhere — on the ground, on sidewalks and in parks — when they belong in the trash can.
Most COVID-19 masks are supposed to be disposable and for one-time use. But most are contributing to plastic pollution.
And since they're made partly from plastic, they're not expected to break down or disintegrate quickly.
To counter this problem, Dutch graphic artist Marianne de Groot-Pons came up with a biodegradable alternative — a mask made of rice paper, with a hidden extra inside: flower seeds.
People online are sharing in the delight of these masks that bloom when planted:
De Groot-Pons talked with The World's host Marco Werman about her inspiration behind the design.
Marianne de Groot-Pons: Yeah, I was stumbling for weeks over all these blue masks and I thought, OK, this is not good. And will this work out when I put some seeds in them and make the fabric biodegradable? So after use, you can plant them. And my goal is to bloom the world.
You bury the whole mask. Yes. Also, the straps and the rosettes, everything you can plant in your garden or flower pot.
It's a kind of meadow mix. Austral cornflower, gilia, dill.
Yes, they're pure wool. So, they're 100% degradable, and they are just only washed in a river. So, they are not with chemicals at all. So, they're just pure wool.
No, no, no. You can compare them with the homemade fabric masks. So, they have not been tested. Yeah, you compare them with the homemade masks.
I'm a graphic designer, so I'm a creative person and all the pollution makes me really sad. So I thought, we have to wear all these masks. So, is it possible to do something creative with these masks so that they're not bad for [the] Earth? And that was the start of these masks.
I worked for a graphic designer for 20 years, so for several brands, not only Unilever. Also other brands. And, I made some packaging made from plastic, so it could be possible that there is one bottle in the ocean with my design on it. And that thought made me think, OK, now that's not good. So, stop with all these plastics and do something good with my job as a graphic designer.
We just started in February. We're working [at] the kitchen table. That's where this whole project started. So, we were really proud that we could produce 100 masks each night. But now, we are connected with a real producer. So, we have 30 people working on this project.
In the last two months, we sold 50,000 masks.
Incredible. Yeah. I've never dreamed that it [would] work out this way. I thought, OK, it's only for friends and family. But, now everybody all around the world is calling me and asked me, "Oh, could you please send them?"
They're in a box with five, and they are 15 euros.
Not yet. Not yet. We would love to bloom [the] US, too. And so, the US people need to be patient, but we're working on it.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.