Paperseed Co has come up with seed masks that bloom into plants when discarded into the soil. Made of vegetable seeds, they protect people against the virus while saving the environment. These masks are brilliant alternatives to the single-use mask that pile up to pose another threat.
You take a walk around to find scores of face masks littering the public spaces. This sight of unsafe disposal of facemasks has become increasingly common. As many as 3.4 billion face masks are discarded daily across the world. The surgical masks take years to decompose, fragmenting into smaller microplastics. They end up in open areas or landfills and oceans, posing a threat to living beings. The pandemic might disappear a few years down the line. However, what about the waste we are generating that would end us doing irreversible damage? Mangalore-based Paperseed Co has a unique design of facemasks that grow into plants when disposed of into the soil.
The single-use face mask is 100% degradable and eco-friendly. Founder of Paperseed Co, Nitin Vas, shared, “We wanted to create something without damaging nature. So, we used sustainable raw material to make the seed masks.” These masks are made of cotton rags and are produced by garment industries. The inner linings comprise a soft cotton cloth. Even the straps are of cotton. They are embedded with season-specific vegetable seeds, including tomato, tulsi, etc. They could be thrown away after a single-use. One needs to water them regularly for them to grow into plants. While the cotton fabric makes the masks comfortable to wear, the double coating of cotton makes them thick enough to protect against the virus. Priced at Rs 25, they might seem expensive. However, considering their laborious process and long-term benefits in growing plants, the price is fair.
Vas explained the process of making the masks, “We make pulp out of cotton rags to make handmade sheets. The seeds are embedded into these sheets which are further cut, stencilled, and stitched to produce masks.” The company uses the Japanese technique of making handmade paper to make their sheets. Although the process is arduous, as it takes several hours to dry the sheets, the result is worth it. It does take around 8-9 hours to make these sheets. However, once done, it is easy to make 100 masks within 4-5 hours on average. Since the entire process is handcrafted, the company produces a limited number of facemasks.
Paperseed Co started in 2017. Nitin strongly advocates using enough for one’s needs and utilising everything optimally. His idea behind starting this social project was to create sustainable and ecological alternatives for society. Since then, the company has been making several seed-based products, including incense sticks, jewellery, toys, pens, etc and makes use of recycled paper to pack them. He conceived the idea of a seed mask last year and by March 2021, launched it. “We are very happy to have received this positive and welcoming response,” shares Nitin. For now, the company has the bandwidth to deliver only 10,000 masks and avoids producing in bulk. These masks have seeds in them and so, they can’t be stored.
He shares how being a social entrepreneur is a courageous job. He often finds himself grappling with unstable finances and a lack of manpower. Despite this, his inner drive to ground himself, soil his hands, and do some work motivates him to keep going. For Nitin, his company is much bigger than just making eco-friendly products. Not set around making profits, Paperseed Co largely focuses on tapping into the potential of women and unemployed youths in rural areas. “We provide training to the women and youth of rural villages and supply them with the raw material to make the products,” Vas chipped in. In this way, the company generates employment opportunities in rural India. And while the journey has had several roadblocks, Nitin believes that things will fall into place eventually.
Nitin is planning to set up a Paper Seed Village with a better infrastructure to produce more sustainable products in large numbers. He says that they have huge production capacity, but a lack of sturdy infrastructure holds them back. So, he has started working on his private property to build a bigger workshop for the production of goods. Besides this, his vision is to encourage more talented youths to step up and become social entrepreneurs. “When these youths will engage in working for a cause and create measurable change, we’ll build a better tomorrow,” says Vas, signing off.