A discussion of single-use plastics in medical settings

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Traditional petroleum-based plastics such as polypropylene (PP) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) are commonly used in medical applications to deliver potentially life-saving treatment and ongoing healthcare to patients around the world. Unfortunately, many of these applications of plastics are single use, leading to many pieces of medical paraphernalia lying in landfill or floating in our oceans. These single-use applications are unavoidable. We propose moving to a newly invented biopolymer platform to resolve the problem.

The healthcare industry is one of the most significant non-commercial markets for plastic products, particularly those that are designed to be used once and then discarded. Many of these products are used in direct patient care, as is the case with applications like syringes and catheters.

However, this was not always the case. In 2018, a freedom of information request by the Press Association revealed that the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) had purchased more than half a billion disposable plastic cups in the five years from 2013–2017. This was the equivalent of 11 cups for every person living in the UK. Although some of these cups will have been used to administer medication to patients, many were used for drinks served to patients and visitors.