St. Joseph’s London switching to biodegradable masks

A discarded face mask on the ground. File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / OlgaAleksandrova16

It’s an Ontario hospital first.

St. Joseph’s Health Care London is making the move from traditional masks to biodegradable, compostable face coverings. The change makes St. Joseph’s the first hospital in the province to use a green alternative mask.

“As a long-time leader in environmental stewardship, St. Joseph’s is always seeking solutions and making changes to reduce our impact on the environment,” said Lori Higgs, the hospital’s vice president of clinical support and chief financial officer. “We are pleased to lead the way in the province with a switch to a green mask that is a healthy solution for the environment and our care teams.”

According to the hospital, while being environmentally-friendly, the new Viraloc eco masks are still medical grade and certified. Made from plant-based biopolymers from renewable crop resources, the mask has an “impressive carbon offset” – producing 65 per cent less CO2e emissions over its life cycle than a synthetic alternative. They are produced by Winnipeg based company PADM Medical. Major hospitals in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as well as multiple retirement homes across Canada have already been using the green face coverings.

Hospital officials view the Viraloc eco mask as an opportunity to “significantly” reduce its use of single-use plastics while not sacrificing breathability, filtration or splash resistance. The switch will also save the hospital money as the new mask is less expensive than the face coverings that had been in use.

“We were pleased to find a mask that not only protects all those who work or receive care at St. Joseph’s, but also benefits the environment,” said Toby O’Hara, general manager of healthcare materials management services.

St. Joseph’s began stocking the new mask the week of December 12 and expects by mid-January they will replace all masks provided to its staff, patients, visitors and volunteers.