The need for face mask materials in healthcare and civil use has seen unprecedented growth during the coronavirus pandemic. As the consumption of face masks continues to stay strong, so does the demand for sustainable and high performance face mask fabrics.
Ahlstrom-Munksjö has decades of experience in the production of protective medical fabrics and sustainable fiber-based solutions. To serve its customers and the market even better during this particular time, the company decided to use its sustainable product offering and the momentum to develop its face mask materials ever further. The new TenderGuard™ product portfolio offers a full suite of fabrics for medical and civil use face masks. The civil use face mask materials, TenderGuard™ BioBased and BioFilter, are biodegradable and compostable under controlled conditions according to European Norm EN13432.
Biodegradable face mask fabrics created in a unique collaboration
Ahlstrom-Munksjö's new face mask fabrics, TenderGuard™ BioBased and BioFilter, are joint efforts of the company’s medical product development team and beverage and casing business team. By combining the know-how of both businesses, the team created sustainable, renewable, and biocompatible materials ideal for civil use face masks.
"Using technology from our business and the expertise of the medical product development team, we were able to advance product functionality in our smart fiber-based solutions. Having products that are sustainable, renewable, and biocompatible allows for the opportunity to provide environmentally friendly options," commented Stuart Nixon, VP, Beverage & Casing.
TenderGuard™ BioBased can be used as an inner or outer coverstock layer of a civil use face mask. The fabric is mainly comprised of polylactic acid (PLA), which is a biopolymer made from sustainable and renewable sources. It is a bio-based alternative to synthetic spunbond material currently produced from fossil fuel. TenderGuard™ BioBased is highly breathable and biocompatible, so it's gentle on the skin and comfortable to wear for long durations. It is certified under European Norm EN13432 as biodegradable and compostable under controlled conditions.
TenderGuard™ BioFilter is a sustainable filter media used as a filter layer in a barrier face covering. The media is primarily designed for civil use and source control for infectious disease. It can be used as a single layer or combined as a double filtration layer for higher filtration performance. The unique fabric is made up of a special blend of cellulosic and cellulose-based manmade fibers. The fibers used in the filter media are 100% bio-based. TenderGuard™ BioFilter is expected to pass the European Norm EN13432, which would make the fabric biodegradable and compostable under controlled conditions.
Advancing product functionality in medical fabrics while providing sustainable benefits
Ahlstrom-Munksjö is firmly committed to sustainability and has integrated sustainable practices throughout its value chain. During these uncertain times, the company wants to focus on where it can make a difference with its smart solutions to advance product functionality while providing sustainable benefits. This holds true especially for its medical business and the protective fabrics the company produces to keep front line workers safe.
The new TenderGuard™ product portfolio also consists of nonwoven medical fabrics that are used in the construction of surgical face masks. These fabrics are extremely soft, comfortable, and protective.
Made with natural fibers, TenderGuard™ Natural wetlaid fabrics can be used as the inner or outer layer of a face mask. With the inner and outer layers together, TenderGuard™ Natural achieves nearly 50% Bacterial Filtration Efficiency.
Accomplishing that level of efficiency with only the inner and outer layer is remarkable as the middle layer generally provides most of the filtration in a face mask. TenderGuard™ Natural is environmentally friendly and, its inner layer is hypoallergenic, so it is perfect for those with sensitive skin.
TenderGuard™ Smooth is a bicomponent spunbond fabric that is made with a proprietary technology to minimize raised fibers. This creates a smooth surface to help eliminate skin irritation, which is essential for a face mask. TenderGuard™ Smooth is hypoallergenic, so it is gentler on the skin, making it ideal to wear for long durations. It is strong and flexible, allowing for the opportunity of high-speed production.
"Ahlstrom-Munksjö is one of the world's leading players in sustainable solutions. With the addition of TenderGuard™ face mask fabrics, it further underscores our mission to expand the role for a sustainable everyday life while providing a protective and comfortable product," commented Lionel Bonte, VP, Medical.