German firm transforms aircraft life vests into face masks

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Bag To Life, a German firm which upcycles aircraft life vests into bags and travel accessories, has pivoted to making face masks with the material as more governments recommend that masks be worn in public settings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The new mask, which has several layers, is sustainable, washable, and adjustable. It has not been certified as personal protection equipment (PPE), but Bag To Life plans to obtain certification.

“Our normal business is to manufacture bags and accessories of aviation materials, like life vests and leather seat covers. It’s all upcycling. We buy the disposed materials because we believe in our sustainable business,” Bag To Life managing director Kerstin Rank tells Runway Girl Network.

But in the face of the coronavirus crisis, Bag To Life “had the idea to develop a clever mask with [three] microfibre filter layers” and a front layer made from aircraft life vest material, she explains.

“The production is running now,” adds Rank. “I think we could get it certified during the next three to four weeks.” Certifying the product as personal protection equipment would be an important milestone.

The design is unisex, and there is even a version for kids. Image: Bag To Life

Aviationscouts GmbH, which runs an online marketplace for surplus aircraft interiors, last year invested in the small, two-person firm that has become Bag To Life.

“We purchased raw material for up to 50,000 masks and have a manufacturing capacity of 2,500-5,000 masks per week at our vendors,” says Aviationscouts CEO Thomas Bulirsch.

Bag To Life is selling its masks online at the moment but plans to add retail partners “step by step”, according to Rank.

Non-medical grade face masks are being used chiefly in the hopes of preventing asymptomatic people from passing on the infection. Health agencies stress that the optimal way to prevent airborne transmission of COVID-19 is to use a combination of interventions from across the hierarchy of controls, not just PPE alone.

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