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COVID-19 WATCH

Fashion volunteers repurpose flour bags as face mask

Komfie Manalo

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Filipino creativity is augmenting the shortage of face mask, with fashion volunteers repurposing flour bags to serve a better purpose.

Fashion designers recently rallied and volunteered to fabricate personal protective equipment (PPE), and donate these to frontliners in the fight against COVID-19. Recently, social media has been abuzz with tutorials, calls for fabric donations, and requests for logistical assistance to get the PPEs to their intended recipients. To address limited materials and manpower, fashion volunteers turned to upcycling.

Upcycling, or the creative use of waste or by-products to produce something that is useful or of value, has helped keep people safe in these trying times. Furthermore, anyone can do it, as upcycling can be done with materials found in your own homes.

On a larger scale, partnerships between corporations and volunteers have also been integral in getting PPEs to the frontlines. One example of such a collaboration is between Pilmico Foods Corporation and Mich Dulce, a well-known fashion designer and founder of the Manila Protective Gear Sewing Club.

Pilmico, the food and agribusiness unit of the Aboitiz Group, will be providing materials, specifically flour sacks, that the Manila Protective Gear Sewing Club may upcycle for their PPE production. The company will be donating the excess flour sacks that were unused in their packaging to the Sewing Club and to other cooperatives who may need them as a base material for their masks.

According to the Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal of Cambridge University, masks made with the flour cotton sacks are best used by ordinary citizens who are their respective households’ runners for errands and supply. Another advantage of making these reusable masks is reducing medical waste, as single-use masks should be immediately discarded after use. While unsuitable for high-risk exposure, these masks will address the shortage so that more N95 and surgical masks will be allotted to those who need it more.

“As more data begins to come out about the importance of wearing masks to slow the transmission of COVID19 between individuals, we saw a good opportunity for Pilmico to work with other stakeholders in this fight against the spread of the virus to upcycle our flour sacks and create facemasks that can be used by everyone to keep themselves safer. This should also help to plug the current shortage of PPE’s that we are seeing in different parts of the country” said Tristan Aboitiz, Pilmico President and CEO. “Aside from this partnership, Pilmico also continues to provide medical supplies and make food donations nationwide to various frontliner groups. We want to ensure that, especially, during times like this, we are doing what we can to ensure the advancement of the communities we operate in and the various stakeholders therein” he continued.

Currently, Pilmico is also rolling out a Flour Sacks to Face Masks program which aims to provide these raw materials for cooperatives, as well as teach them how to produce the face masks.”We have to do what we can to pitch in during times of crisis,” Aboitiz urged. “One of those things is to increase the access of Filipinos to tools that make people safer.

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