A start-up supported by Qatar Foundation Research, Development, and Innovation (QFRDI) has embarked on a project to develop sustainable plant-based masks, face shields and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kits to be made available as early as the first quarter of 2021 to fight Covid-19 and beyond.

“ECOshield by fabriQs is a project by Artea Group to develop sustainable, innovative and alternative materials for face masks, face shields, coveralls and other PPE products for medical, civil and construction use,” Jeniffer Marie Tungol, founder and Group CEO of the company told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview.

The project is one of the winners of the Innovation Coupon, a grant recently launched by QFRDI to support the national and global responses to Covid-19. Innovation Coupon aims to help local entrepreneurs and startups scale their innovative ideas.

“Our concept will be circular in all its approach, from sourcing of raw materials, manufacturing, packaging and distribution. The ECOshield PPEs such as particulate respirators, surgical masks, civil masks, coveralls, face shields and other PPEs will be plant-based, proprietary fabrics made of pineapple, banana, abaca, bamboo fibres and other biomaterials.” explained Tungol.

The official said that the project framework for the ECOshield products is built based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, materials innovation, Biomimicry (design inspired by nature) and circular economy.

“The ECOshield particulate respirator and surgical mask will be developed to help provide respiratory protection against certain airborne biological particles. The products will be designed according to particular use, to be reusable and disposable. The ECOshield coveralls will be a range of full-body protection in protective class Types 5 and 6.The face protection will be made from plant-based and biomaterials that can be compostable.” she continued.

Tungol noted that the project aims to solve environmental pollution. “Currently, the non-woven face masks and PPEs sold in the market are not sustainable, not biodegradable and can cause great environmental pollution. We aim to lessen the environmental impact of the traditional face masks and other PPEs and create sustainable, healthier and natural fabrics that will be safer for everyone to use.” she maintained.

The official also said that the company wants to promote local manufacturing and potential export to other countries; make the products affordable and accessible for the general public; forge textile and materials innovation in Qatar and build the first sustainable textile and bio materials factory in the Middle East.

The research and development, prototyping and lab testing and standardisation of the products are going on and the first range of products is expected to be available by the first quarter of 2021.

The official claimed that the ECOshield Project and the sustainable products that will be developed have the potential to create an impact on the environment, local and global market, manufacturing and supply chain and healthcare industry during and post Covid-19 crisis.

She also thanked QFRDI for providing the grant in the Innovation Coupon project that will enable the company to be part of the solution to the growing problem of plastic pollution in Qatar and worldwide.

“We hope that this project will open doors for similar start-ups in the country and be able to illuminate the need for private and institutional investors to focus more on ‘impact investing’ and a ‘green economy’,” added, Tungol.