Market Players Emphasize on Recycling of Medical Plastic Due to Mounting Environmental Concerns
Healthcare facilities around the U.S. generate around 14,000 tons of waste per day of which, plastic constitutes approximately 25% share. The adoption of medical plastic for various applications, including packaging and production of medical equipment & apparatus has witnessed consistent growth over the past few decades. At present, several government and non-government agencies across the U.S. such as the US Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council are increasingly emphasizing on boosting recycling rates of medical plastic that are usually pitted out. Research and development activities are in full swing to assess the dependency of the medical sector on plastic, and how the industry can minimize its usage to develop a sustainable environment.
At present, the healthcare sector of the U.S. is largely focused on using single-use plastic due an array of factors, including low cost, durability, and ease of disposal. In addition, the sterilization quotient offered by single-use plastic is considerably higher than that provided by other alternatives due to which, the demand for single-use medical plastic is on the rise. Although medical plastic has played an essential role in revolutionizing the medical sector across the U.S., it is being met by immense scrutiny due to its negative impact on the environment.
At the back of these factors, the U.S. medical plastic market is expected to reach a market value of US$ 30 Bn by the end of 2030. In addition, surge in the demand for disposable medical devices such as intravenous tubes (IV) and disposable medical devices is another leading factor that is projected to fuel the growth of the U.S. medical plastic market during the assessment period (2020-2030).
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Favorable Physical and Functional Properties of Medical Plastic Drive Demand
Over the past few decades, the demand for medical plastic for biomedical applications has increased at a consistent pace– a trend that is expected to continue during the forecast period. Some of the top factors that have contributed to the overall growth in adoption of medical plastic include ease of processing, low costs, lightweight, and sterilization. In addition, as plastics can be efficiently modified using coatings to increase resistance against microbes, medical plastic continue to garner considerable popularity across the healthcare sphere in the U.S. Due to increasing pressure by regulatory authorities and mounting environmental concerns, single-use plastics have emerged as a popular choice among healthcare providers to facilitate hygiene and health across hospitals.
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Although the demand for single-use plastic across the medical sector has witnessed notable growth, several stakeholders are of the opinion that single-use plastic is being overused. Several hospitals across the U.S. are seeking novel ways to reduce the usage of single-use plastic by exploring other reusable alternatives. For instance, several hospitals in the U.S. are inclined toward replacing blue wrap with reusable sterilization containers to curb plastic waste. The ongoing push for single-use packaging across the U.S. healthcare sector is expected to provide considerable opportunities for players operating in the U.S. medical plastic market during the assessment period.
In addition, as more number of hospitals are swaying toward deploying eco-friendly recycling solutions for medical plastic, prospects of the U.S. medical plastic market offer promise to market participants. Hence, the U.S. medical plastic market is expected to experience an uncertain growth rate amid the entry of environment-friendly alternatives.
High Demand for Single-use Plastic Products across U.S. Healthcare Sector amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Despite receiving heavy criticism prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, medical plastic has garnered considerable popularity across the healthcare sector in the U.S. Due to the growing demand for efficient sanitary choices, single-use medical plastic has emerged as an ideal candidate for several applications across the healthcare sphere. The demand for single-use surgical gloves, insulin pens, syringes, catheters, and IV tubes, among others, has witnessed considerable growth amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as these products minimize the risk of infection and streamline hospital operations by eliminating the process of sterilization. Although the demand for medical plastic in the U.S. has scaled up during the COVID-19 era, its adoption in the future will largely rely on price of oil. However, the strong demand for medical plastic in the COVID-era is expected to have a low impact on the overall production of medical plastic.
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The U.S. medical plastic market is expected to grow at an impressive CAGR of 9% during the forecast period. The market growth is largely driven by the high demand for single-use medical plastic to manufacture an array of medical products, including single-use surgical gloves, insulin pens, and IV tubes. In addition, favorable physical properties such as low costs, durability, and ease of sterilization are likely to aid market growth. However, due to environmental concerns and increasing pressure from regulatory bodies, several medical facilities are exploring the potential of other materials to replace plastic, which, in turn, could affect the growth of the U.S. medical plastic market during the assessment period.
U.S. Medical Plastic Market: Overview
- Medical plastic is used in the manufacturing of various medical devices and products such as catheters & syringes, dental tools, diagnostic instruments, drug delivery devices, implants, medical bags, and surgical instruments. Medical plastic is primarily employed in areas where metal parts are used in medical devices. Medical plastic possesses superior flexibility during the fabrication process, lightweight, bio-compatibility, and low cost of manufacturing. These are some of the factors that are augmenting the usage of plastic in the medical industry. Furthermore, medical plastic is extensively employed as a substitute for titanium/stainless steel metals in medical devices. Enhanced materials, especially disposable plastics, boost the performance of a wide range of medical tubing.
- Demand for medical plastic has been rising in the U.S., as it is used as a major material in the formulation of medical devices and equipment. This is estimated to boost the medical plastic market in the U.S.
- Increase in cases of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. has resulted in growth in consumption of medical equipment, critical care systems, and disposables (including gowns, medical bags, shoe covers, respirators, gloves, and masks). This is projected to boost the demand for medical plastic in the U.S. in the near future.
- Based on type, the medical plastic market in the U.S. has been segmented into polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, engineering plastics, silicone, and others. The polyvinyl chloride segment dominated the medical plastic market in the U.S. with more than 30% share in 2019. High share of the segment can be ascribed to properties of polyvinyl chloride such as abrasion resistance, lightweight, good mechanical strength, and toughness. Polyvinyl chloride is also primarily employed in the production of disposable devices.
- The polypropylene segment of the medical plastic market in the U.S. is expected to expand at a rapid pace in the near future. Polypropylene exhibits high resistance to cracking, acids, organic solvents, and electrolytes. It offers high melting point and dielectric properties. Polypropylene is also used in making medical vials, diagnostic devices, intravenous bottles, specimen bottles, pill containers, etc.
- Based on processing technology, the extrusion segment dominated the medical plastic market in the U.S. in2019. The extrusion process technology is used to convert a thermoplastic raw material into a finished or near finished product. The mold used in the extrusion technology is more economically viable than that employed in other process technologies. Furthermore, the cost of extrusion molding is relatively lower than that of other molding technologies.
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Key Growth Drivers of U.S. Medical Plastic Market
- Low cost, lightweight, high durability, chemical resistance, breathability, sterilization capability, and biocompatibility of plastics are some of the factors that are estimated to boost the demand for plastics in the production of various medical products. Majority of plastic medical products are made by using polyvinyl chloride, owing to the latter’s cost-effectiveness, adaptability, ease of processing, clarity, and biocompatibility. High abrasion resistance, lightweight, and good mechanical strength are the major factors driving the demand for PVC in medical plastic market. It can be cut, shaped, welded, and joined easily in various styles. Therefore, it is considered a key medical plastic employed in applications such as disposables, diagnostic instruments, and prosthetics.
- Polyethylene is another widely utilized polymeric material in the medical industry due to its versatility, durability, high impact resistance, resistance to chemical attack, and low moisture absorption. These attributes make it an ideal choice for formulation of medical plastic. Engineering plastics such as Polyether Ether Ketone (PEEK), Polyether Imide (PEI), Polyethersulfone (PES)/Polysulfone (PSU), Polyphenylene Sulfide (PPS), and Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPE/TPU) are commonly used in the manufacturing of medical products due to their excellent performance characteristics. Hence, these attributes of various types of medical plastic is likely to drive the demand for medical plastic in the near future.
- Rise in innovation in 3D printing for the manufacturing of patient-specific prosthetic limbs and orthotic braces is anticipated to boost the medical plastic market in the U.S. Furthermore, increase in penetration of 3D printing in manufacturing of personal protective equipment, owing to the growth in COVID-19 cases across the country is estimated to offer lucrative opportunities to the medical plastic market in the U.S. 3D printing helps decrease time required for the development of a product. It also reduces errors and increases the accuracy in production of complex designs. The usage of 3D printing technologies can help customize medical implants for body parts such as knees, hips, ankles, parts of spine, and skull. Sterile instruments such as forceps, hemostats, scalpel handles, and clamps can also be manufactured using this technology. These factors are projected to drive the demand for medical plastic in the U.S. in the near future.
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Leading Players in U.S. Medical Plastic Market
- The medical plastic market in the U.S. is highly competitive. It is dominated by a large number of players across the country. Major players operating in the medical plastic market in the country include
- DuPont de Nemours, Inc
- Exxon Mobil Corporation
- Chemical Company
- Celanese Corporation
- Arkema S.A
- Trinseo S.A
- REPSOL S.A
- Covestro AG
- Lotte Chemical Corporation
- Tekni-Plex, Inc.
- Producers operating in the medical plastic market in the U.S. are expanding their product offerings and footprint in the global market. For instance, onApril 24, 2023, Exxon Mobil Corporation increased its manufacturing capacity of polypropylene, by 1,000 tons per month. This is likely to boost the production of medical masks and gowns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.