Single-use medical devices have been under close scrutiny for several years, especially the choice of plastic materials. Many different requirements such as medical safety, treatment functionality and efficiency, environmental performance, etc. have to be fulfilled. Today, the most commonly used materials for hydrophilic urinary catheters are polyvinylchloride (PVC) and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). In this research study, these two materials' environmental performance was evaluated. In light of the knowledge gained in that study a new plastic material for use in urinary catheters was developed. The aim of the development of this new material was to design a high performance material with superior environmental performance. The newly developed plastic material is a polyolefin-based elastomer. The ecological environmental performance of the new material was evaluated and compared to the existing plastic materials. The study focused exclusively on the choice of plastic materials and their ecological environmental performance.The analysis has been performed using a system perspective and a life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. The functional unit has been set to the treatment of one patient during one year. The results from the LCA models have been presented both in terms of direct inventory data, such as energy use and formed emissions, and in terms of the results from four different impact assessment methods. Analysis of the results based on direct inventory data, i.e. common inventory results such as energy resource uses and emissions of CO 2 , NO x and SO 2 show an overall better environmental performance for the new polyolefin-based elastomer compared to the existing PVC and TPU plastic materials. The normalization and weighting steps in the analyzes have indicated the importance of energy resource uses and global warming as indicator for the environmental performance even if other impact categories also can play a role. In the environmental impact assessment, the polyolefin-based elastomer showed a clearly better environmental performance than the TPU material. Compared to PVC plastic material the new polyolefin-based elastomer showed an almost equivalent environmental performance. This can be mainly explained by the different materials' energy use. The new material has thus also shown to be an environmentally good alternative to PVC if a PVC-free material is requested. Basing the plastic formula, on simple bulk plastics with low energy use in the production of single-use medical devices, has been shown to be a successful method of producing high quality products with superior environmental performance.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.