Canadian Manufacturing

FPInnovations completes phase 1 of development of biodegradable disposable masks from Canadian forests

The company is ready to begin the second phase which is expected to lead to an entirely made-in-Canada biodegradable solution for face coverings

September 16, 2020  by CM Staff

FPInnovations quickly completed the first phase of its mask project and successfully developed a biodegradable filter, made from sustainable wood fibres. (PHOTO: FPInnovations)

MONTREAL — FPInnovations, a Canadian research centre, has completed phase 1 in the development of biodegradable disposable face masks, and is ready to begin the second phase which is expected to lead to an entirely made-in-Canada biodegradable solution for face coverings.

During an 8-week applied research sprint and with financial support from Natural Resources Canada, FPInnovations completed the first phase and developed a biodegradable cellulosic filter media. The cellulosic filter media is the middle layer of a three-layer mask, is made from sustainable wood fibres, and is suitable for single-use face masks. Current single-use personal masks are made from petroleum-based plastics.

“The work we are doing at FPInnovations allows the Canadian forest sector to produce safe, local, and eco-friendly solutions to Canadians,” said Stéphane Renou, president and CEO of FPInnovations, in a prepared statement. “The innovations being developed in the area of cellulosic fibres open the doors to new markets. This is further evidence that the forest industry can offer much more than people realize.”

The average filtration efficiency of this new cellulosic filter media is currently at 60%, surpassing the average filtration efficiency of a typical cloth mask which is approximately 30%. FPInnovations’ research efforts now aim to further improve the filtration efficiency of the media to meet requirements for surgical masks, which may lead to potential new uses of the filter medium such as in air filtration systems.

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The existing Canadian pulp and paper industry could meet the mask procurement needs of Canada within weeks without having to make changes to their production lines and without needing large investments in new equipment.

The cellulosic filter media is made from a blend of hardwood and softwood fibres from sustainable Canadian forests. The Canadian industry re-grows as many trees as it harvests, making Canada a global leader in forest management with more than 170 million hectares or 38% of the globe’s certified forests. Only 0.2% of Canada’s forests are harvested annually. This approach would contribute to address the environmental problem that the quickly growing demand for disposable plastic masks has created.

Through upcoming collaboration with industrial and government partners on this project, FPInnovations will pursue phase 2 of its research efforts, focusing on the development of a fully biodegradable, disposable mask, made in Canada from Canadian wood fibres.


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