SEOUL, March 16 (UPI) -- A team of South Korean researchers have developed a recyclable face mask, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology said Monday.
The team headed by Professor Kim Il-doo said people can reuse the cotton mask, which is equipped with a nanofiber filter, even after washing it more than 10 times.
The reusable masks are expected to help the country grapple with the shortage of face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Thai workers were caught recycling and reselling masks early this month after washing and repackaging them.
"Traditional mask filters use static electricity to block pollution sticks or viruses. When they are exposed to water, however, they lose efficiency," Kim told UPI News Korea.
"In comparison, our products are based on different technology to make nanofiber membranes. We learned that their effectiveness continues even after washing with ethanol spray 20 times."
Kim added that the filters are replaceable so that people can use the masks for weeks.
"As our masks can be reused after hand washing, we hope that they will enable the country to better deal with nationwide shortages while addressing environmental problems caused by used masks," he said. "Mass production would be possible after getting the government approval."
Health officials have debated whether face masks can help protect people from the fast-spreading COVID-19. But the Seoul administration has encouraged people to wear them.