How one young entrepreneur raised funds for AusOcean school STEM program: Network Blue

450! That’s right! Four hundred and fifty years - for just ONE of these disposable face masks to decompose.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, near all countries have to wear masks. And with Covid still spreading, fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant, billions more masks are going to be needed, even with vaccine rollouts accelerating.

Production of face masks has increased more than 12-fold, and at the time I conducted my research, the World Health Organisation predicted 89 million extra masks will be needed globally every month.

However, the impact on the environment is the really scary bit. Already, some 8 million tonnes of plastics enter our oceans every year! But now with COVID, one study estimates that in the UK alone, 123 thousand extra tonnes of waste is being produced. And that’s just one country. They only represent 1% of the world’s population!

Extending this out beyond the UK, there’s MILLIONS of tonnes of extra waste entering our oceans. This is clearly something we all need to be concerned by.

SDG Goal #14 reminds us, that even before COVID-19, as much as 40 percent of the ocean is affected by pollution. You can feel the tension building!

On one hand, for very good reasons, we have world health experts telling us of the importance of wearing face masks. So, it’s no wonder protective gear is so important. However, on the other hand, if the world continues disposing these masks like we are now, we’ll be adding to water pollution by at least 25% without blinking. What a massive dilemma!

The world NEEDS a way to solve this ocean problem while we still tackle Corona. Therefore, we need to ACT STRAIGHT AWAY! This is why I invented a solution to this big challenge. Happy Reusable Fabric Masks.

With the help of my sister Hayley and Mum, I developed a "Happy Mask" production line, stitching up home-made ultra-hip face masks made from clean, upcycled material offcuts. Every time I sell a Happy Reusable Fabric mask, $5 is donated to AusOcean.

I started this business last year, as part of the Entrepreneurial Specialist Learning Program at my school, Heathfield High. Check out: I've been supported by two very encouraging and dedicated teachers Mrs. April Lewis-Christie and Mr Luke Northcote. They have helped me unlock my inner passion, talent and have encouraged me to have a positive influence in my community and the world.

My goal was to sell enough masks so Heathfield High School could purchase a $700 Rig for the AusOcean, Network Blue School Program.

But guess what? I've doubled my goal! Raising over $1400 for AusOcean.

Will you join me in being part of history to help address both the COVID-19 virus and the horrible scar it could leave on the world’s oceans!? We can all make a difference. Be part of helping to save our planet.

Angus Riessen


AusOcean is a not-for-profit ocean research organisation that supports open source practices. Open source approaches to tackling environmental issues means embracing collaborative tools and workflows which enables processes and progress to be fully transparent. A critical aspect of working open is sharing data not only with your immediate team but with others across the world who can learn, adapt and contribute to collective research. By contributing to, and supporting open practices within the scientific community, we can accelerate research and encourage transparency. All tech assembly guides can be found at

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