June 10, 2021
Sustainability of single-use technologiesReading time: 3 minutes
Environmental impact of single-use technologies
Single-use systems and sustainability seem to be contradicting topics. Spoiler alert: they‘re not.
When you think of plastic waste and environment on our planet it’s impossible to unsee pictures of animals in their natural habitat trapped in plastic waste. Nevertheless, there is no chance that this waste comes from the biopharmaceutical industry. Less than 0,01% of the plastic waste generated annually worldwide are single-use technologies derived from the biopharma. This portion is subject to strict guidelines, so they’re usually collected, decontaminated and disposed rigorously.1
Furthermore, manufacturers of single-use technologies are obliged to facilitate the separation of the product into its base materials after use. Therefore, the single-use products are mostly very easy to recycle.
How to recycle RoSS®
RoSS®, the protective storage and shipping container for single use bags and manufactured from Single Use Support, is made from 3 different materials:
- Stainless-steel lids
- PE panels
- 3D foam
It is not only easy to separate into its base materials but also easy to recycle. Single Use Support encourages its customers to talk to their local waste management contact on how to recycle. Alternatively, it is also possible to send RoSS shells back to SUS for proper recycling.
Why re-use of the RoSS shell is generally not recommended
It is beyond Single Use Supports scope of influence to guarantee sterility of RoSS components. Proper handling of components and measures to maintain the low bioburden status are within the responsibility of the customer. After weeks & months of usage under different conditions and locations the Austrian solution provider does not advice to refurbish or use RoSS components multiple times as the flexibility and adaptability of the foam required for proper immobilization cannot be guaranteed after multiple freeze/thaw cycles
Waste management in Biopharma single-use industry
In general, there are more factors that influence sustainability than only plastic waste. It is the holistic view on all environmental aspects including the required resources of water, chemicals, material processing etc., the impact on agricultural or urban land occupation, on ozone depletion or on ecotoxicity that help to evaluate the total impact on sustainability. When comparing different solutions in Biopharma, single-use technology is more environmentally friendly than traditional multi-use stainless-steel solutions.1 The reason behind this observation is mainly the need to elaborately clean multi-use technologies, such as stainless-steel technologies. Process freeze tanks, for example, must be cleaned with high water pressure, chemicals and other treatments before re-use which leads to extensive environmental harm.
The comparison between the lifecycle-assessment of single-use and conventional (durable) facilities are shown in Fig.2 in detail.2
The industry is about to acknowledge that sustainability is a mutual long-term goal where many parties are involved. All contributions and initiatives to make the industry even more environmentally friendly are a good step to make both the industry and our environment sustainable whilst maintaining the quality and sterility of biopharmaceutical products.
- ISPE: What about the environmental impact of single-use technology on sustainability? 2020. Available at: https://ispe.org/pharmaceutical-engineering/ispeak/what-about-environmental-impact-single-use-technology
- Whitford W., Petrich M.: Concerning Single-Use Systems and the Environment. 2018. Available at: www.bioprocessintl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/16-6-eBook-Sustainability-FINAL.pdf?__hstc=