Daily life 4 min
Single use plastic products : more useful than futile!
Plastics drive the success of single use products thanks to their high technical performance and low manufacturing costs. The trend has however been decried, except for professional uses where safety is as important, if not more, than practical considerations.
Single use plastic products : more useful than futile!
Single use plastic products : more useful than futile!

Fewer risks with single use and plastics!

Synthetic nonwoven fabrics reinvent dry cleaning

Intimate protection and other disposable wipes have seduced consumers through their ease of use. Over one third of synthetic non-wovens are intended for personal or domestic hygiene, a segment that has seen steady growth in recent years. Yet, many people seem to forget that the main advantage of these products is keeping dirt and its residues from the water cycle, while drastically reducing consumption of the most precious of resources. Worse still, many people seem to be unaware that these products are intended to end their lives in garbage bags and not in the sewage system.

 

This reminder is particularly timely given that garage owners, carers, collective catering staff and industrial maintenance personnel are well aware of the stakes. Every day, all of these professionals use polyester microfibre wipes or absorbent polypropylene cloth to prevent the spread, by air or moisture, of fats, hydrocarbons and other toxic or contaminated residue. Companies have also understood the need for these single use or short-term use technical wiping products. They just have to compare the cost of eliminating waste from dry cleaning with the cost of treating reusable wiping products which can be extremely costly in industrial or hospital environments.

Polymers have you covered

In many situations, using single use products is an obligation rather than an option. They are a requirement for professionals in many areas of business, as well as for their visitors and users.
Among these products aimed at protecting individuals' health and safety, synthetic fibre non-wovens are at the forefront of such applications due to their inherent properties which enables them to act as "barriers" against contamination in sensitive or sterile environments and against toxic and radioactive risks in industrial environments. They are rendered effective at an affordable price thanks to the most commonplace polymers such as polyester, polyethylene and propylene, among others.

The pioneer in this field is without a doubt the famous high-density polyethylene-based nonwoven Tyvek® invented by DuPont in 1955, best known as comprising the "paper" in tear-proof envelopes. In reality, the membrane really shows off its capabilities in disposable or short-term use protective clothing. It is solid, waterproof and breathable and various versions of clothing made with the membrane enable users to work in all sorts of sensitive environments. For instance, work that involves being in contact with toxic solvents at Airbus or radioactive particles in nuclear power stations, and even in the bush, enabling MSF's staff to treat victims of Ebola.

Professionals in medical environments prefer using polypropylene-based nonwovens, namely SMS membranes. These nonwovens, comprised of at least three alternating layers of long, thick and resistant Spunbond fibres and Meltblown microfibres with filtering and antibacterial properties, are used to manufacture most disposable blouses, sheets and surgical drapes that are currently found in the health industry. They can provide effective protection for staff and help prevent cross-contamination, as well as protect agro-food or cosmetics manufacturing processes.

Biotechnologies bet on single use

Single use medical devices have established themselves in the medical sector and can now be found everywhere, from the operating room to nursing practices. The last ten years have also seen increased use of disposables for cell culture-based biopharmaceutical processes required for making one out of every two drugs.
Some manufacturers offer modular mixers and bioreactors comprised of single use plastic reservoirs, tubes and connectors. These types of equipment have many advantages to offer: no cross-contamination, no cleaning, pre-sterilised products, streamlined testing procedures, and lower investments thanks to the use of high-performance plastics, available at lower prices. And that's not even counting smaller installations and flexibility of use.

The Mobius® bioreactors presented by Merck Millipore in 2014 perfectly illustrate this new generation of plastic biofactory that integrates all stages of cell culture. At the heart of the device is a flexible reservoir connected to an entirely-plastic circuit of tubes and connectors. The latter is comprised of a removable pouch made from a copolymer film composed of two central layers impermeable to gas, covered by two layers of ultra low density polyethylene (ULDPE), one of which is in contact with the culture medium. Another major advantage is that this type of bioreactor can be used in all types of laboratories as it can accommodate from three to 2,000 litres.

Technical textiles for single lifting operations

First appearing on the lifting market around forty years ago, textile lifting slings have long appealed to professionals thanks to their technical strength, lightness, flexibility and competitive pricing.
Slings are technical textile straps supporting the load to be lifted, at the ends of which are metallic accessories enabling the sling to be attached to a lifting machine such as a crane or hoist. The slings are manufactured from polyester, polyamide or polypropylene fibres according to strict technical standards. Safety comes first during their use, and sling operators are required to acquire specific skills before going to work. To make things easier when using slings, namely during docking, which is the most delicate operation, some manufacturers have created single use slings..

Unlike conventional slings, disposable slings are built into the product at the manufacturing site and remain attached to the load until its final destination in order to avoid any dangerous slinging operation on site.
Single use slings are made from the same synthetic fibres as conventional slings, andoffer mechanical properties which correspond exactly to the load's physical constraints during lifting operations. However, polymers with a higher sensitivity to mechanical attack and ultraviolet light are used in order to time-limit performances. This is done because they are not intended to be and nor can they be reused.
To make sure that they are not reused, the slings are fitted with a self-destructing mechanism which is activated when the load is released such as, for instance, a simple sharp plastic ring locked by a clip on the textile web.

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