Used face masks were collected at group business sites and recycled into polypropylene (PP) pellets to produce 29,000 hangers at Kolon FnC, a fashion and lifestyle wing of the group with units specializing in chemical and textile manufacturing. PP is a thermoplastic resin used for various products including chairs, carpets and tableware.
About 60 million disposable masks are discarded every month in South Korea, threatening to cause environmental issues such as microplastics that can have devastating effects on ecosystems and human health. Scientists estimate that the ocean floor alone is now home to over 14 million tons of microplastics, which measure up to 5mm in size.
"Discarded mask recycling started with the idea that disposable face masks used for health protection should not be a cause of environmental pollution," Kolon's social responsibility head Kim Seung-il said in a statement on August 17.
Many leftover materials have been upcycled in South Korea. When K-pop sensation BTS gave a public speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2021, the band garnered global attention for wearing a suit made with recycled fabric produced by Kolon FnC. Seoul-based global apparel brand FILA released eco-friendly shoes made with recycled materials including recycled cork and biodegradable waterproof paper.
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