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Industry Talk

Making face masks from recycled plastic bottles

Derbyshire, UK based manufacturer Baltex launches sustainable face mask to reduce plastic pollution worsened by Coronavirus.

30th November 2020

Knitting Industry
 |  Ilkeston, Derbyshire, UK

Knitted Outerwear

A Derbyshire, England based textiles manufacturer has developed a sustainable washable face mask made from recycled waste plastic bottles in a bid to reduce the environmental impact of the Coronavirus.

Leading technical warp and weft knitter Baltex, which has been in business since 1831, has created the high-performance mask in response to reports that disposable masks have led to a surge in plastic pollution during the pandemic.

Last week it was revealed that the UK public is sending 53.3 million disposable facemasks to landfill every day, while globally 129 billion face masks are being used every month. Baltex, which designs, manufactures, and supplies a variety of technical textiles for markets including aerospace, military, medical and the automotive industry, launched its Airox Face Mask, with a pioneering anti-viral finish, earlier in the year.

The company has now developed a 3D spacer fabric with yarn made from crushed plastic drink bottles, creating sustainable masks which are said to be both highly breathable and water repellent. Designed to be comfortable yet strong enough for use during manual labour or sporting activities, the Airox Sport is already being used by staff in several companies across the UK’s East Midlands region.

Hopefully our environmentally friendly masks will prevent both plastics and used masks ending up in landfill, or worse, abandoned in our streets, rivers and eventually the sea

So far, the high-performance fabric has passed tests for breathability, liquid repellence and buyer comfort while the specialist coating, called ViralOff has been accredited with reducing levels of Influenza A, BirdFlu, Norovirus and SARS by 99%.

Managing director Charles Wood, an eighth-generation owner of the family business, said: “There have been huge improvements in the quality of yarns made from recycled products and the fabric we have developed is soft and extremely comfortable. While it is perfect for wearing to the supermarket, the breathability of this mask makes it ideal for wearing while exercising or in workplaces where the labour is quite manual; it is already being used on the shopfloor at several companies in the East Midlands.”

“While welcome news of a vaccine may mean we won’t need facemasks forever, we are expecting them to still be a requirement until at least Easter time. Hopefully our environmentally-friendly masks will prevent both plastics and used masks ending up in landfill, or worse, abandoned in our streets, rivers and eventually the sea.”

Baltex was founded by William Ball and his brothers Francis and Thomas in 1831, starting life as a silk and lace manufacturer, before adapting to specialist fabrics after facing fierce competition from cheap imports. The company employs 50 people and around 70% of its work is for export. It has a subsidiary in Poland, and works with agents in Hong Kong, Italy, Finland and the USA. In April, Baltex was given the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise for a record third time, after previous success in 2003 and 2009.

 The Airox Sport is available on the website

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