ReneMask: giving a new lease on life for used masks

ReneMask: giving a new lease on life for used masks

Ayb School (Yerevan, Armenia) is joining CNN's first ever #CallToEarth Day. Celebrating a planet worth protecting, CNN partners with schools, individuals, and organizations across the world to raise awareness of environmental issues and to engage with conservation education. The anxiety about climate change and waste of natural resources that result in irreversible consequences for nature - these and other issues are raised by the participants all over the world.

At Ayb School, eco-behavior and a caring attitude towards the environment are always in the limelight. The school has an Eco Team for social activities. Students voluntarily initiate and carry out clean-ups, poster campaigns, shoot video clips, and organize information events both at Ayb and outside of school in various parts of Armenia.

Ilya Lalazaryan, a 12th-grade student at Ayb School, suggests processing the piles of facial protection items that emerged due to the coronavirus epidemic and thus solving the environmental pollution problem. In his article, Ilya tells how to give a new lease on life for the used masks.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has so far produced about 129 billion waste masks that can theoretically cover a territory three times bigger than Singapore. Widespread use of personal protective equipment that has become an inseparable part of our life may however lead to an environmental disaster. Meanwhile, the world seems to be more concerned about the unmasked people rather than about the harm disposable masks can incur on nature. At the same time, factories manufacture more and more protection items to satisfy growing consumer needs, which inevitably results in growing piles of rubbish. Although grave, thе problem is still neglected.

In May 2020, when I was an 11th-grade student and pollution risks were just emerging, I decided that this problem should be given a lasting solution. I discussed my ideas with the chemistry teacher and started my research. Sometime later, we started our first processing experiments in the school laboratory. Combining my two interests - ecology and chemistry - I developed the idea of RenéMask. My goal was to reprocess used masks in an ecologically sustainable way. After months of research, scientific experiments, and discussions, we discovered a safe method to receive fuel out of waste masks. Thus, the RenéMask project is supposed to solve two problems at once: prevent environmental pollution and provide an alternative energy source. According to the 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, global energy consumption increased by 2,9% since 2017, which is 2 times more than during the last 13 years.

For this reason, the discovery of fossil fuel substitutions has become a primary task for many countries. We arrived at a conclusion that it is possible to get fluid fuel through the chemical processing of masks that can be used in warming devices or some kind of motors. This way, I started processing the masks worn and discarded at Ayb School. In April 2021, the RenéMask won the Awesome Nature Armenia grant contest and received financing in the amount of $1000, which is now used to expand the project and continue the scientific research. Currently, the project is focused on the analysis of the chemical composition of the fuel and its peculiarities. Besides, we are searching for ways to establish cooperation with the local processing companies.

It’s worth noting that this method can be used for the processing of other types of plastic such as bottles and bags in the future. The overall project aims to resolve the environmental pollution problem in Armenia by producing a source of energy that can substitute fossil fuels.

For me personally, RenéMask has become a tool to struggle against excessive use of plastics and to strive towards sustainable living.