French company Plaxtil has used their technology to recycle used face masks into school supplies. Millions of discarded masks have been collected, sanitized, broken back down into plastic and molded into protractors, rulers and triangles for geometry classes.
The company used to be a plastic parts supplier to the automotive and aeronautical industries; but after a charity asked for help dealing with a mountain of donated clothes that weren't fit for sale, company co-founder Jean-Marc Neveu figured out how to break them down into raw material.
The plastic content of today's garments can be as high as 70%, and Neveu developed a process to precisely melt the used clothes into a fiber-infused plastic that can be re-molded.
This is profitable; Plaxtil now supplies their material to manufacturers who are seeking an alternative to using virgin plastic.
When the pandemic hit, the company saw that a massive amount of face masks was going in and out of circulation, which would provide them with a windfall of raw material. "When masks came along, we were all ready because disposable masks are practically all plastic fiber," Nevue told Marketplace. "Now, we have transformed 25 million of them."
To date, Plaxtil has cranked out 100,000 of the geometry kits, which French municipalities provide to students free of charge.