ABACA MASK makers are positioning their reusable product as a responsible solution to the growing medical waste problem posed by disposable masks during the pandemic.

Albee Ann B. Serevo, owner of abaca face masks and bags manufacturer Abaca Finest, said in a mobile phone interview that interest in abaca masks has surged alongside the increase in COVID-19 cases.

“They usually inquire about placing bulk orders. I think it is the effect of rising COVID-19 cases,” Ms. Serevo said.

“We sell the masks ranging from P80 to P120 per piece depending on the design,” she added.  

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has said 280 metric tons of medical waste is generated daily and is shaping up to be another environmental issue for the government.

The DENR has since partnered with the United Nations Development Program to establish two waste treatment facilities.

A preliminary study conducted by the Department of Science and Technology last year indicated “abaca paper (is) more water resistant than a commercial N-95 mask, and to have pore sizes within the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended range to filter hazardous particles.”

Ms. Serevo said abaca face masks are washable but should be cleaned with care.

“It cannot be cleaned using detergent or bleach and should not be brushed,” Ms. Serevo said.  

Meanwhile, Ms. Serevo said the use of abaca masks will also help farmers in Catanduanes, where she sources her materials.

“We are able to help not only the people by giving them alternative protection against COVID-19 but also to help reduce the waste from disposable face masks ending up in our waters,” Ms. Serevo said.

“As of now, the price for one abaca sheet is around P35 to P40, which can make a maximum of 9 face masks. The farmers have already started replanting after the typhoons last year,” Ms. Serevo said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority estimates that abaca production for the first half of 2021 hit 30,830 metric tons (MT), down from 33,250 MT a year earlier.  — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave