Single Use Manufacturing, A Green Engineer’s Worst Nightmare

It’s been dubbed “The future of biotechnology”. Single use systems allow biotechnology companies to make something in a pre-sterilized plastic assembly.  These systems, only used once, are then thrown away. Sounds simple, right? You don’t have to clean it before or after use, and your worry for cross product or bacterial contamination is greatly reduced.  Industry leaders have ran the numbers and started adopting these technologies because of up-front cost savings, but the marketers didn’t tell us about one major problem: what to do with all the used pieces that are now waste.

In the last twelve months, I’ve learned more about plastics, polymers, and purity than I have ever cared to know. I’ve listened to every vendor sales and marketer explain why we should use their products over the competition, and only recently have they started to differentiate themselves based on how to dispose of their products.

We’ve seen the effects greenwashing of a product can do: sales are boosted, company approval ratings jump, and customer satisfaction increases. Additionally, the companies purchasing the products can market themselves as more sustainable and socially aware.

Why haven’t we seen more advertisements about this?

Is it because the programs are so costly, they don’t think people will opt into them?

Are they advertising to the wrong decision makers? 

Could it be that these engineering vendors haven’t hired the right marketing people?   

Some recycling programs do exist!

EMD Recycles(Image: http://www.emdmillipore.com/US/en)

One of the few programs out there is by EMD Millipore, and allows the recycling of water purification cartridges.   However, this is only a very small percentage of the plastics and single use pieces used in a typical facility.

My point is, I know that recycling programs for the biotech industry are out there.  Why haven’t I, a decision maker in who’s products we use, seen marketing for them?

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