Almost every industry had to adapt to the new situation in the global markets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some industries have been paralyzed, some had to adapt, and some have a great potential to help to fight the Coronavirus. The sector of bioplastics is not an exception, and it belongs to the industries that have the potential to contribute to offer novel COVID protection items.
Before COVID-19, there was a massive push against the single-use materials and plastics, but this has shifted, as now we need single-use items in the hospitals to maintain a sterile environment. Hygiene and consumer health are now the number one priority. This does not mean we should continue with pre-COVID patterns of consumption; on the contrary, we should rethink the materials used in single-use items.
The 3D printing of medical equipment is among the critical areas of application for bioplastics, as it can help produce the necessary protective equipment instantly, and in a decentralized manner. The same parts can be printed around the world in universities, laboratories, and companies, using different machines to meet unexpected demands.
The biopolymer called PLA had been used for 3D printing because it is very well adapted to manufacturing from smaller machines. The PLA filaments can be produced with antibacterial properties that significantly reduce the spread of germs and infections. The characteristics of the PLA enables one to print in a range covering rigid and soft materials.
Let’s mention some of the initiatives. Four regional companies from Germany cooperated to produce a new face shield in record time, from design to production it all took only 14 days. They produced a conventional version and a version called GREENShield that takes into account today’s sustainability ambitions and it is constructed from 100% biodegradable and compostable material based on cellulose.
In the Netherlands, a company called Biopromotions, in cooperation with Brazilian company Braskem, innovated face masks design by adding a face mask strap to remove excess pressure from the ears and so improving the quality of life of those health workers in the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.
To reflect the company´s ideals of quality and sustainability, they have chosen a soft bio-based material called I’m green™ Polyethylene produced from sugarcane, which is very nice to use and also feels soft around the head.
Other companies and organizations and trying to help by donating the material needed to produce masks and other much-needed materials. To mention a few, Total Corbion PLA is donating resins that will be converted to filaments and used to produce medical masks and other COVID protection. Aimplas from Spain also donated facial protection and is providing technical support and research to facilitate the production of urgently needed plastic applications.
As we can see, the bioplastic industry has rapidly innovated and adapted and even offered help in the form of donations to the cause of the fight against COVID-19.