Vancouver-based NEXE Innovations Inc., specialized in plant-based materials science and manufacturing technologies, has begun the development and prototyping of a compostable disposable face mask, which is called the "NEXE Mask”, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In developing the NEXE Mask, NEXE will leverage existing collaborations in polymer science, plant-based materials, and municipal composting that were utilized for its NEXE pod. To support this goal, NEXE has also initiated new collaborations with leaders in healthcare and personal protective equipment.
NEXE has developed initial prototypes and will focus on creating a fully functional compostable disposable facemask that meets international healthcare standards in the coming months. The space required for manufacturing can be easily accommodated in NEXE's newly expanded production facility, and several new hires in engineering roles are anticipated as part of the project. The Company aims to complete a functional prototype in 2021. With funds raised under the December 2020 financing and received under warrant exercises, NEXE has sufficient funds to complete the development of the NEXE Mask.
It is estimated that more than 100 billion facemasks1 are currently being disposed of every month as the COVID-19 pandemic rages. The vast majority of these are made from non-compostable polypropylene, requiring decades or centuries to break down and leaving microplastic pollution behind. While they are a key tool in the fight against COVID-19, these disposable masks also create significant landfill waste or contaminate lakes, rivers, oceans, and soils. The global market for disposable masks exceeded $70 billion USD in 20202, more than double the size of the market for single-serve beverage pods.
"With this project, NEXE is finally able to showcase our innovation platform, leveraging our battle-tested experience in handling plant-based materials technologies to confront plastic waste in the healthcare industry," said CEO Darren Footz. "Masks save lives, but there has to be a more sustainable solution. We've built the skills and technologies needed to confront this problem, and are excited to open up a new dimension to our business."
NEXE will leverage established collaborations with the Surrey Biofuels Facility, one of Canada's most advanced composting centres, and Dr. Zachary Hudson, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Chemistry at UBC. Hudson also serves as Chief Scientific Officer of NEXE, and his lab at UBC is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments for materials characterization and design.
"Our goal is to develop a disposable facemask that is made from plant-based materials without compromising on safety or comfort. By engaging with leaders in materials science, compostability, PPE manufacturing, and healthcare, NEXE aims to apply our technologies to one of the world's fastest-growing sources of plastic waste. We are excited to share more about our technologies and partnerships in the short term," said Hudson.