In a factory in rural France, a laser cuts through a hemp canvas on the production line of what the manufacturer says is Europe’s first compostable face mask.
Geochanvre pitches the hemp masks as a way to reduce plastic waste during the coronavirus pandemic from single-use protective gear that environmentalists say will take centuries to decompose and is polluting the oceans.
“It’s heresy not to ban polyethylene products, materials that are shipped to all corners of the world. Use local agricultural materials,” Frédéric Roure, founding president of Geochanvre, told Reuters TV.
“This is a natural product and will go back into the soil.”
The mask’s lining includes a corn blend for comfort and the elastic band is recyclable.
Bales of hemp fibre are passed through compressors and over rollers before emerging at the end of the line as hard-packed flat sheets, ready to be cut into shape and folded by hand.
Customers, mostly from Europe and Canada, have so far bought 1.5 million of the hemp masks since March.