Heather Berthelette believes that if more people saw how many masks and how much personal protective equipment (PPE) was piling up in local landfills, they would be shocked.
“It is very troubling and most people don’t even realize how bad it has become,” Berthelette, the CEO of Spirit Healthcare Group (SHG) said. “There is yards and yards of this plastic, and our landfills are full of it.
“Even before the pandemic, the amount of PPE that hospitals and health centres were using and discarding was huge and it’s just been made worse by the pandemic. An operating room is covered in plastic, with things like masks, and gowns and shoe coverings.
“These things are all switched over three or four times a day, so it’s piling up.”
SHG is a subsidiary of the Tribal Councils Investment Group, which is owned by the seven Tribal Councils of Manitoba, and chaired by Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches.
Their purpose is to grow strong and competitive companies that can compete on a national and global level while also bringing an “Indigenous world view to the way they do business – with an eye on both economic growth and social development.”
SHG has now partnered with Precision ADM Medical, a company that creates and distributes medical devices and equipment, to create masks and PPE that Berthelette said will not sit and rot in landfills for years, or possibly centuries after being used.
The new partnership has been named Spirit92, and is based on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s recommendation 92, which calls for the “corporate sector to establish meaningful consultation and long-term, sustainable opportunities on economic development projects.”
The partnership will see the two companies launch new compostable face masks and PPE, that they said are made from plant-based materials and be far better for the environment than what most health care centres are currently using, while also offering the same amount of protection and safety.
According to SHG, traditional masks are made of plastics that take hundreds of years to decompose, and they said the masks they are creating will account for 56% less carbon emissions than traditional masks.
They also plan to use the material to produce PPE equipment other than masks, as Berthelette said it could be used for things like protective gowns, gloves, and other equipment.
And according to Berthelette the companies are focused on the goal of mass distributing their new equipment, while also focused on doing something to help the environment.
“The material is developed, and we have started manufacturing,” she said. “Our goal is to make 40 million per month, and right now we are already at 10 million per month.”
She added they hope to sell the products to individuals, but are also hoping to sell large amounts of it that could be used in health care facilities.
“Because we are looking at something that is so important and would be so impactful, we are really looking for where we can distribute the most and distribute this equipment all over the country and all over the world,” she said.
“Because of climate change we are really looking for that high impact.”
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun