Sartorius on environmental concerns: 'Single-use is greener, if not cleaner'

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Dealing with biowaste makes recycling plastic bioreactor bags a problem, says Sartorius
Dealing with biowaste makes recycling plastic bioreactor bags a problem, says Sartorius

Related tags Steel

The environmental impact of single-use biosystems remains lower than stainless steel despite difficulties in the disposal of bioreactor bags, says Sartorius.

Results from the 6th Annual Survey of the Single-Use Bioprocessing Market published by consultancy group Aspen Brook​ found two-thirds of respondents were concerned about the environmental impact of disposable solutions.

However, while the throwaway nature of such systems seems harmful to the environment, the overall impact is far less than with traditional stainless steel equipment, according to Christel Fenge, Vice President of Fermentation Technologies at Sartorius Stedim Biotech.

“There have been a number of calculations and reports looking into the complete environmental impact of single-use systems,”​ she told

“The main contributing factor is reducing the need for purified water and energy associated with cleaning stainless steel systems,” ​and “for a complete balance, single use is still beneficial from an environmental view.”

While fellow bioreactor vendor EMD Millipore has spoken in the past​ about recycling elements of single-use systems into fuel pellets - used to make bricks and cements – Fenge was unaware of anyone in the industry able to recycle the bioreactor bag plastic due to regulations surrounding the disposal of contaminated materials.

“These bags are used to make recombinant cells and must be managed locally due to bio-safety regulations,”​ she told us. “Countries have specific requirements to de-activate bio materials, whether through incineration or via local third-party waste specialists, and therefore any recycling concept is demanding.”

Convenient disposal

We asked Fenge if Sartorius’ customers had shown concerns with the nature of single-use products: “We have not heard any concerns on the environmental side, but we have had feedback from customers as to how to contain their biowaste.”​  

With single-use bags frequently reaching 2,000L in size​, Fenge said biologics makers are instead looking for disposal solutions, and waste-handling is one area Sartorius is keeping on the radar for potential business developments.

“Single-use is not driven by the environmental aspect but by conveniences – the speeding up of production processes, reductions of cleaning costs and making manufacturing more flexible,” ​and the industry is calling out for a “convenient”​ disposal service, she added.

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