Julian Lotz: My co-founder Vinzenz Nienhaus developed bioplastic-based bone replacements at the Technical University Darmstadt, Germany. I used to offer advice and expertise on plastics to orthopedic device companies. Along the way, we both saw large piles of waste in the laboratories and university hospitals comprising single-use (disposable) products and tons of packaging. In the interest of quality, these were previously made from virgin fossil-based plastic. Our co-founder Carmen once did the math on this: Medical plastics generate global CO2 emissions equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from Sweden or Denmark. We can and we must change that, which is why we “launched” this segment two years ago.
What makes your plastics sustainable?
Lotz: We use different biobased polymers. Most of our compounds are 95 to 100 percent biobased. Raw polymer production is not only highly energy efficient, but PLA can also be chemically recycled in an energy-efficient manner, resulting in a quality that is suitable for medical technology application. We have a cradle-to-gate carbon footprint that is up to 80 percent lower than contributions of common fossil-based medical plastics such as PET, PE, PP, PC, and ABS. Bioplastics also have another major advantage as it pertains to waste incineration, which is still widely used in healthcare settings: the CO2 emissions don’t stem from fossil energy sources millions of years old, but were removed from the atmosphere by the plants in the last growth stage. The cycle is thus significantly shorter and fossil carbon stays where it belongs, namely buried deep underground. Compared to polyolefins such as PE and PP, we also have a lower carbon footprint per kilogram of plastic, which also reduces emissions if burned.