Since the COVID pandemic, disposable masks have become the omnipresent trash du jour, ever reminding us that disease transmission is only one of the problems currently threatening the global population. In response, graphic designer Marianne de Groot-Pons founded Marie Bee Bloom to produce 100% biodegradable COVID-protective face masks festooned with flower seeds that should spring up anywhere the masks may be discarded.
“The earth and the ocean are littered with plastic disposable masks due to the pandemic,” reads a statement on Marie Bee Bloom’s website, “With all the harmful consequences that this entails. This makes us sad and we want to do something about it!”
According to statistics from an article in Environmental Science & Technology (2020, 54:13), “…a monthly estimated use of 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves globally is resulting in widespread environmental contamination.” Through the introduction of biodegradable masks, De Groot-Pons is hoping to reduce the glut of single-use plastics spreading alongside the disease. According to reporting by dezeen, she also hopes to atone for her decade of employment at consumer goods giant Unilever, which creates tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic pollution annually.
“I’ve also polluted the earth with my designs for prints and packaging, so I want to do something back for the earth,” said De Groot-Pons, on the company’s website.
The masks themselves are minimalist, made of rice paper filled with flower seeds, with a logo printed in biodegradable ink, and are produced in a Dutch sheltered workshop. The woolen cords are made of hand-processed sheep’s wool and machine-spun sheep’s wool from Sweden, as demand has exceeded the capacity of the original workshop. The brand’s website assert that the protection offered by these biodegradable flower-bomb masks is “as good (or bad) as homemade fabric masks,” though they have not been tested.
Because of the flower seeds, which is a Dutch meadow mix including asters, cornflower, coreopsis, gilia, gypsophila, dill, the masks are currently only available in Europe. As Marie Bee Bloom looks to expand into different international markets, they are researching what kind of native plant species can be used to make the masks adaptive to their respective environments, rather than invasive.
While it may not solve all the problems, either viral or environmental, it’s heartening to see a designer using her talents to make positive impact rather than simply drive consumerism.
“Earth happy, bees happy, nature happy, people happy,” said De Groot-Pons. “Bloom the world! Bloom the world!!”