Mask republic is the name of the new social business initiative launched by Borealis and paper republic, a Vienna-based stationery brand that is producing sustainable and reusable face masks for distribution across Austria.
While the two companies may seem like an unlikely pair, each is bringing its own specific input to the project.
Borealis is providing filtration media fabrics, made using their new polypropylene (PP) resin for meltblown applications: Borealis HL912FB.
Face mask design, manufacture and sales are being organised by paper republic. The initiative involves providing local and regional tailors, who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a custom-designed kit to assemble these masks from a light cotton fabric.
A key innovation of the masks designed by mask republic is the washable meltblown filter between 2 outer layers of high-quality cotton fabric. Laboratory tests indicate an up to four times greater efficiency in filtrating particles and droplets compared to run-of-the-mill home-made masks.
Extensive testing resulted in the development of a meltbown filter that provides an optimum combination of breathability and filtration efficiency. The filter is similar to that of a surgical mask but lacks the electrostatic layer that provides the enhanced filter performance of those masks. While this means the mask's filtration level is lower than that of a surgical mask, the benefit is that it will survive repeated washing cycles without losing efficiency or effectiveness.
Demand for effective face masks has risen sharply over the past months increased significantly and is expected to remain strong, as European countries begin to open up. In addition, some are introducing mandatory mask-wearing in public areas.
Due to the shortage of functional and effective face masks, Borealis recently converted a meltblown pilot line at its Linz, Austria, Innovation Headquarters for small-scale production of fine fibre fabrics for these applications.
The company is already using its newly developed HL912FB grade on this line to produce meltblown fabrics for customised inlays in cotton-based mouth-nose masks, conventional mouth-nose masks, and possibly later on also for high-end face masks worn by medical professionals (FFP2, FFP3 and N95).
As Dorothea Wiplinger, Borealis Sustainability & Project STOP manager, said: “The innovative Borealis material makes the masks more effective, while the design is not only fashionable but also sustainable, and safely reusable. Furthermore, we are also stimulating local employment. Borealis and paper republic demonstrate what reinventing for more sustainable living looks like.”
Mask republic is donating one mask for every 3 sold, to 'those who need it most in our communities'.