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Sri Lanka, UK duo looks to commercialize honey coated banana-fibre mask concept

ECONOMYNEXT – Two Bahrain resident expatriates from Sri Lanka and Britain say they have conceived and are developing a honey coated, banana fibre face mask which would have anti-microbe properties suitable to protect against Coronavirus, but is rapidly biodegradable.

They are now looking to further refine the mask with additional research and development, get certification and commercialize it.

The Mel-Cotta (honey coated) branded mask uses banana stalk fibres, honey and propolis – a substance found in beehives – to produce N95 style masks that are expected to trap microbes and neutralize them.

Propolis is a material bees produce with wax and plant extracts to seal off small holes and also mummify large predators such as rats that die inside hives and protect against putrefaction and decease.

The Mel-Cotta fabric was jointly developed by David Churches and Frank Ryde, a Sri Lankan national and an expert apiarist.

Churches has a background in paper production, recycling and particulate science.

“Our Mel-Cotta masks are completely biodegradable made from locally sourced sustainable materials and honey-coated to automatically kill bacteria, fungal spores, and viruses (including Covid 19),” Churches said.

“Our mission is to make Sri Lanka a world leader in hi-tech mask manufacture, a win-win-win for the entire population of the country, good for jobs, good for cash profit and good for the environment.”

“Current raw materials are everywhere in the environment, we use discarded plant material. But with our special honey mix coating, it is the only mask in the world that can kill the viruses while you are wearing it.”

They say the Mel-Cotta fabric is a filter medium which can trap microscopic particulates around 0.3 microns range.

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The ‘active organic’ honey coating, the mask developers say will kill any infectious micro-organisms such as fungal-spores, bacteria and viruses.

Mel-Cotta fibre is made from the banana stalk (trees) which are now discarded. The entire banana ‘tree’ which is a type of grass is discarded after the fruit is harvested.

The active coating is derived from dried honey and propolis from bees, plus other additives made from crushed seeds and plants, such as cinnamon, turmeric, black cumin, which also have been used as disinfectants for centuries in Asia and the Middle East.

Rhyde is an apiculturist (bee farmer), an apitherapist (traditional therapeutic bee remedies) who has been involved in making organic and bee-related products.

“What we will do is we will develop the filter paper and give it to the garment factories to turn it into masks,” Frank Ryde said.

At the moment approved N95 masks use plastic fibres which do not degrade easily.

With billions of face mask being used and discarded, with the Coronavirus crisis, a serious environmental problem is emerging, Churches says.

Trapped germs in masks that are not safely disposed of is another problem. The proposed Mel-Cotta mask would bio-degrade rapidly.

The founders say the mask would also be cheaper.

“These masks would only cost 50 per cent of the global market price for mask “, Ryde said.

However, scaling up will require more organic material. What higher demand will do to the price or availability of the bee-related raw material is not clear.

With the existing resources, Ryde says in the first stage of production, Sri Lanka can produce about 10,000 masks a month.

With proper reorganization and government approval Sri Lanka would be able to produce several millions of masks every month, Ryde says.

“It can be done, in just a few months, but will require government intervention and serious investment in new beehives and raw materials,” he said.

Mel Cotta industries have done the preliminary research, but the promoters say they need to continue to research, get a patent and they are looking for investors to fund it.

The mask will be produced by a third party apparel firm.

The promoters say they have begun discussions with independent testing laboratories, in Sri Lanka and overseas, to ensure the Mel Cotta biodegradable masks, meet or exceed required national and international approvals.

They say they need funding for final research, pre-production, quality certification, as well as assistance in performance testing.

Extra funding is required for R&D, finalize proof of concept, identification of suitable materials, evaluation of manufacturing processes, and functional testing, in the region of 300,000 US dollars.

Further to set up the manufacturing of Type 1 (non-medical) and Type 2 (medical) masks, working with manufacturers, assisting farmers and traders in the supply chain, QC testing at all levels, and duration evaluation, in the region of $400,000.

Additional funding for national and international medical laboratory certification and type approvals would require in the region of 250,000 dollars. (COLOMBO/Sep10/2020-sb)