FPInnovations, a Canadian research centre, has successfully completed phase 1 in the
development of biodegradable disposable face masks, and is ready to begin the
second phase which is expected to lead to an entirely made-in-Canada
biodegradable solution for face coverings.
During an 8-week applied research sprint and with
financial support from Natural Resources Canada, FPInnovations
quickly completed the first phase and successfully developed a biodegradable
cellulosic filter media. The cellulosic filter media is the middle layer of a
three-layer mask, is made from sustainable wood fibres, and is suitable for
single-use face masks for public use. Current single-use personal masks are
made from petroleum-based plastics.
The average filtration efficiency of this new cellulosic filter media is
currently at 60%, surpassing the average filtration efficiency of a typical
cloth mask which is approximately 30%. FPInnovations’ research efforts now aim
to further improve the filtration efficiency of the media to meet requirements
for surgical masks, which may lead to potential new uses of the filter medium
such as in air filtration systems.
The existing Canadian pulp and paper industry could meet the mask procurement
needs of Canada within weeks without having to make changes to their production
lines and without needing large investments in new equipment. The Canadian
forest sector can offer a global solution where significant export
opportunities could be developed in a very short time frame.
The cellulosic filter media is made from a blend of hardwood and
softwood fibres from sustainable Canadian forests. The Canadian industry
re-grows as many trees as it harvests, making Canada a global leader in forest
management with more than 170 million hectares or 38% of the globe’s certified
forests. Only 0.2% of Canada’s forests are harvested annually. This approach
would contribute to address the environmental problem that the quickly growing
demand for disposable plastic masks has created.
Through upcoming collaboration with industrial and government
partners on this project, FPInnovations will pursue phase 2 of its research
efforts, focusing on the development of a fully biodegradable, disposable mask,
made in Canada from sustainable and renewable Canadian wood fibres that is
ready for public use worldwide.
“The work we are doing at FPInnovations allows the Canadian forest sector to produce safe, local, and eco-friendly solutions to Canadians. The innovations being developed in the area of cellulosic fibres open the doors to new markets. This is further evidence that the forest industry can offer much more than people realize!” Stéphane Renou, President and Chief Executive Officer of FPInnovations