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Raúl Peral Santamaría DDS
Ms Mattiucci, the Hygoformic saliva ejector and aspirator tubes by Orsing are now made out of bio-based PE derived from sugar cane. What kind of material was used before, and why did the company make this change?
The original Hygoformic was manufactured in a mixture of PE and PP, which is, in itself, cleaner plastic in the sense that its combustion generates only harmless steam, no dangerous fumes; however, it is derived from fossil oil. We started investigating materials with reduced greenhouse gas emissions. We found that bio-based, non-biodegradable plastic has identical properties to fossil-based plastic, but can be so much more efficient! Whereas it takes 0.25 l oil to produce a 1.00 l water bottle, 1 ha land produces enough sugar cane for as many as 1.8 million Hygoformic Bio saliva ejectors. There is truly no comparison. By replacing PE/PP in the production of Hygoformic alone, we will decrease our output of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 385 t per year. Pretty amazing for just one product!
What were the biggest challenges in switching the whole production line to Green PE?
There were multiple challenges, and it took a few years of extensive research to get there. We needed a material that performs as well as PE/PP does, both during manufacturing and in use. A safe, high-quality material that does not deteriorate quickly was needed, so biodegradable materials were a good choice for packaging but not for the actual product. Used saliva ejectors being contaminated waste anyway, the only sensible recycling is combustion in energy plants, where available, in order to create new energy. Another challenge is that raw material is naturally more expensive—how much more are we as consumers prepared to spend for a greener product? Switching the whole production line of our most popular saliva ejectors to Green PE was a bold choice, but a necessary step in order to offer our customers sustainable products at a sustainable price. The positive market reaction proves that it was the right thing to do.
Your PE is made of sugar cane cultivated in Brazil. How does sugar cane ethanol production affect the rain forest?
The origin of the material is a sensitive issue; you really need to choose your supplier wisely. To start with, the plantations are in south-central and north-east Brazil, 2,000 km away from the Amazon region, and currently occupy only 1.5% of Brazilian arable land. The expansion of areas used to plant sugar cane is governed by the Sugarcane Agroecological Zoning, a federal regulatory framework that prohibits planting in areas of high biodiversity. The ethanol is purchased from different suppliers that are selected according to a code of conduct for ethanol suppliers. The code of conduct covers aspects related to compliance with Brazilian labour law and respect for biodiversity. Orsing’s Hygovac Bio and Hygoformic Bio are produced with material from suppliers that strictly adhere to this code of conduct.
“When it comes to replacing fossil-based raw material with renewable resources, we believe that Orsing is on the forefront”
Even though it is very important to minimise the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere as much as possible by choosing more sustainable material options, it doesn’t reduce the amount of waste that single-use items produce in general. The average dental clinic uses and discards hundreds of essential consumables, such as saliva ejectors, every day. Are there any plans to maybe develop autoclavable/reusable products in the near future?
Autoclavable saliva ejectors and aspirator tubes are widely available. Some of our consumables are autoclavable before use, but still single-use. There are also products on the market that are supposed to be able to be cleaned and autoclaved multiple times; unfortunately, we do not believe in reusable saliva ejectors for infection control reasons. We also do not believe it is more environmentally friendly to wash and reuse saliva ejectors, especially when the saliva ejector is made of fossil-free material. What we would like to see is more combustion in waste-to-energy power plants that recycle hazardous dental waste into electricity.
When it comes to making environmentally friendly decisions, how does Orsing evaluate itself in comparison with other companies in the industry?
When it comes to replacing fossil-based raw material with renewable resources, we believe that Orsing is on the forefront. The fossil-free line is quickly expanding and includes several aspirator tubes and dental cups. More and more products are packed in home compostable and biodegradable bioplastic, and all Orsing’s items are shipped in Forest Stewardship Council-certified carton boxes. Transport by sea and land is the preferred choice. We also help dental clinics to communicate their environmental choices to their patients. All clinics that purchase Orsing’s environmentally friendly products are automatically certified “Orsing—good environmental choice”. They receive a certificate to display in the dental office, and all certified clinics can apply to be listed on Orsing’s website.