Sustainable Development

How scuba divers are turning ocean waste into COVID face masks

Scuba diver

Scuba divers are recycling plastic bottles into face masks amdist COVID-19. Image: Unsplash/Nick Fewings

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Sustainable blue economy

  • Diving organization PADI is using ocean plastic to make face masks.
  • Across the world, makers are turning plastic waste into PPE.
  • One group invented a device to avoid picking up the virus from door handles.

A group of scuba divers have come up with a neat way of tackling two major problems, by recycling ocean plastic waste into coronavirus face masks.

Using water bottles recovered from the sea, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) has set up an operation with Irish watersports clothing company RashR to recycle the waste plastic into a range of face coverings.

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And there’s a third benefit from the scheme – RashR is donating $2.25 (€2) from the sale of every mask to the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association.

Manta Ray Recycled Plastic Cloth Face Mask
Recycled face mask. Image: PADI

To date, the project has recycled over 500kg of plastic and the masks are being sold for no more than the cost of producing them, PADI says.

“We care about the ocean and our diver community, so we wanted to be able to put our hands on our hearts and say that we’re not profiting off this difficult time,” Lisa Nicklin, vice president of consumer marketing at PADI Worldwide, told CNN.

Plastic vs the pandemic

PADI divers are not the only ones using recycled plastic to fight the pandemic.

Netherlands-based Precious Plastic is sharing its designs for plastic recycling machines, which it says can make personal protective equipment (PPE) 75 times faster than 3D printers. It has designed recycled visors and a device to open doors without touching them.

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Float Digital, an online marketing agency based in Cornwall, England, has been using recycled water bottles to 3D-print face shields for healthcare workers.

In Gulu, Uganda, a shortage of PPE is being tackled by Takataka Plastics, a social enterprise that is recycling plastic waste to produce visors for local health workers.

Some enterprises have even switched business models to join the fight against the pandemic. Paper recycler Zaidi Recyclers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, turned over its entire operation to process discarded plastic water bottles into visors for health workers.

Face mask and distancing reduce covid-19 risk.
The effectiveness of face masks and eye protection from COVID-19. Image: Statista

Wearing a face covering could significantly reduce transmission of the virus according to research published in The Lancet. Masks are now compulsory on public transport in many countries, and the World Health Organization has offered a guide on the dos and don’ts of wearing them.

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