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Solvay in Joint Project to Recycle Single-Use Medical Devices

The collaboration with French medical device manufacturer Ostium seeks to upcycle polymers from single-use surgical instruments that would otherwise be incinerated.

November 9, 2022

2 Min Read
operating room with surgeons
Image courtesy of Alamy/Mikalai Lenets

Materials supplier Solvay has teamed up with French start-up Ostium in a joint project to enable mechanical recycling of end-of-life single-use surgical instruments molded in Solvay’s glass-fiber-reinforced Ixef polyarylamide (PARA). It is reportedly the first initiative of its kind to recycle and, indeed, upcycle polymers recovered from used healthcare devices. Through this project, Solvay aims to show that performance polymers such as Ixef PARA in single-use surgical instruments, which have considerably advanced patient safety, can also contribute to sustainability and resource efficiency.

“Our customers in the healthcare industry must meet strict regulatory demands, while at the same time striving to minimize the carbon footprint of their products and support the reduction of hospitals' and clinics' end-of-life waste,” said Claire Guerrero, Global Marketing Manager Sustainability at Solvay. “We identified a gap between these challenges, which prompted us to forge this unique collaboration for developing a breakthrough recycling process for used surgical instruments that are commonly disposed of by incineration rather than reclaiming their high material value. By controlling every step in the loop from the original IxefPARA to the upcycled PARA compound, we will be able to ensure its high quality, purity, and performance for demanding downstream applications and can make a significant contribution to a more sustainable polymer economy.”

French startup Ostium, which specializes in the design and manufacture of orthopedic instruments, will supply hospitals with new custom surgical kits made with Ixef PARA and collect the contaminated instruments after use. This will also promote the replacement of metal surgical instruments with lightweight polymer designs and help medical facilities reduce sterilization costs and waste disposal as well as lower their carbon footprint.

The partnership with a regionally recognized leader in the treatment and recycling of waste from healthcare activities with infectious risks was key to developing a dedicated mechanical process to clean, sort, and grind the collected material, said Solvay. The resulting high-quality polymer feedstock can be used in the production of new polymers, advancing the development of a circular ecosystem.

Solvay said it is evaluating upcycling options and integrating the recycled feedstock into new PARA compounds. Initial trials reportedly show that the recycle-based PARA compound provides a very high level of performance, with up to 85% of flexural properties and no loss in surface appearance when compared with the virgin grade. It has the additional advantage of lowering the carbon footprint.

In view of regulations in place in the healthcare market with constraints on the use of recycled materials, Solvay is targeting open-loop downstream solutions in which the recycled material will find a second life in high-end markets, such as automotive and sports and leisure equipment.

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