In a win-win for sea animals and humans, a scuba diving group is turning plastic water bottles that once polluted oceans into face masks for people to protect themselves against the coronavirus.
The face masks are made by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), in partnership with Rash'R, a company that sells eco-friendly active wear. Each reusable mask costs $20.40 and comes with five replacement filters. The price reflects the cost it takes to make each mask, PADI says on its website.
"We are not profiting from this product," Lisa Nicklin, vice president of consumer marketing at PADI Worldwide told CNN. "We're very much a heart-and-soul organization. We care about the ocean and our diver community, so we wanted to be able to put our hands on our hearts and say that we're not profiting off this difficult time."
The masks, currently available for pre-order, come in five different designs based on sea animals such as whale sharks, manta rays and great white sharks. There is even one made to fit children ages 4-10.
With 15,000 masks already pre-ordered, PADI and Rash'R have had to quickly ramp up production to meet demand.
"We underestimated how popular they would be," Nicklin said. "I think (consumers) just felt that it was a great thing to do for the ocean while also buying something that they need."
Based on the number of current orders, the masks have helped remove and reuse 1,267 pounds of ocean waste, according to Nicklin.
While the US government advised against buying face masks early on in the pandemic, it now recommends that people wear face masks and coverings in public. Research has shown that the coronavirus can spread by talking and possibly breathing. That guidance also includes practicing social distancing as much as possible.
Buying reusable face masks like the ones PADI sells allows people to protect themselves while reserving the N95 respirator masks and surgical masks for the health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, Nicklin says.