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New Plant-Based Solutions for Non-Recyclable Health, Home Products

While there’s plenty of discussion surrounding single-use plastics — namely straws, water bottles, food packaging, coffee stirrers, etc. — the topic of disposable needle counters doesn’t typically enter into the conversation. But with hospitals across the US generating more than 12,000 tons of waste per day — 30 percent of which come from operating rooms — reducing the use of non-renewable plastics in healthcare is imperative. NewGen Surgical, Inc.’s new plant-based surgical needle counters have the potential to drive industry-wide change, helping O.R.’s across the country dispose of used surgical sharps in a safe and sustainable way.

“Our customers have asked us to help them green their O.R. with single-use disposable products that create less plastic waste,” said Rob Chase, Founder and President of NewGen Surgical. “We are excited to offer a needle counter with the outer box achieving a 95 percent reduction of plastic waste, by weight, headed to landfills.”

“All plastic waste affects human health. There is no ‘away’ when it comes to plastic waste in our environment,” added Dr. Ann Blake, Founder and Principal of Environmental and Public Health Consulting. “Traditional surgical needle counter boxes are produced with high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) plastic. Because the material was used as a medical device, it is not a candidate to be recycled and not readily biodegradable in a landfill. If incinerated, polystyrene produces a complex mixture of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, shown to have negative impacts on public health.”

The NewGen Surgical Needle Counters have a direct and measurable impact on reducing plastic waste. If a hospital converts to NewGen’s needle counters, it can reduce O.R. plastic waste by 1,000 lbs. for every 12,500 needle counters used. According to Ken Blier, NewGen’s Principal Engineer, the needle counters use the same sustainable feedstock as the company’s skin stapler line.

The NewGen Surgical Needle Counters are available in a range of foam and magnet combinations, a full-surface magnet for oddly shaped sharps, adhesive tabs to secure the needle counter to any workspace, is latex free and features a secure closure latch with audible feedback. The initial needle counter product family includes 40 count foam/magnet, 60 count double magnet and 80 count double foam configurations; single sterile or bulk, non-sterile for surgical procedure packs.

Meanwhile, biotech company Solugen has launched a plant-based line of cleaning products, Ode to Clean. In lieu of petroleum-based chemicals, Ode to Clean uses Bioperoxide, one of the purest forms of hydrogen peroxide made 100 percent from plants and created using Solugen’s proprietary technology.

Solugen was founded in 2016 by CEO Gaurab Chakrabarti, M.D., Ph.D. and CTO Sean Hunt, PhD. Dr. Chakrabarti discovered a unique enzyme that produced hydrogen peroxide using an ultra-efficient and pure method from sugar sources during his M.D. and Ph.D. training in oncology at the University of Texas Southwestern. Dr. Hunt was completing his Ph.D. on nanoparticle synthesis for hydrogen peroxide production at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Through their combined expertise, Drs. Hunt and Chakrabarti saw an opportunity to apply their work to the field of hydrogen peroxide manufacturing, a traditionally energy intensive and dangerous process that relies on non-renewable resources such as petroleum and produces hazardous byproducts.

“Hydrogen peroxide is recognized worldwide as a safe and effective cleaning ingredient, but it is incredibly dangerous and energy intensive to create and transport,” said Dr. Chakrabarti. “Sean and I wanted to not only develop a technology that reduces the waste and pollution in the production process, but also create a purer product that would be clean and safe to use in our homes with our own families.”

The co-founders developed a proprietary micromanufacturing platform, which combines cutting-edge enzymatic technology (via CRISPR/Cas9) with a reactor to create Bioperoxide, a form of hydrogen peroxide made from 100 percent plant starch. The team plans to license the technology to major chemical companies to use in their own hydrogen peroxide manufacturing or as an end user, helping to reduce the broader environmental impact that chemical manufacturing has on the environment.

Ode to Clean is Solugen’s first product line to feature Bioperoxide. Because they are only made with plant starch and water, they are the only cleaning wipes on the market that do not emit toxic fumes or leave behind a toxic residue on surfaces, making them safe to use anywhere in the home. The wipes are 100 percent biodegradable and compostable, thereby reducing their impact at end-of-life.

“Wipes are incredibly energy intensive to produce and create a lot of waste, but are also incredibly convenient to use,” said Dr. Hunt. “In fact, we could drive from the Earth to the moon and back 18,000 times with the petroleum used to make the cleaning wipes Americans use every year. It made sense that we’d want to tackle this category first, creating wipes that are not only convenient and effective, but that consumers can feel good about using.”

In addition to launching their new product line, Solugen has announced their first round of fundraising. The company has raised $4.4 million in seed funding from investors including Y Combinator, Refactor Capital, MIT, Liquid 2 Ventures and Social Capital Partnerships, among others.

"Ode to Clean is not only a safe and effective cleaning product, but it's also a proof of concept for Bioperoxide," said David Lee, Cofounder and Managing Partner at Refactor Capital. "Sean and Gaurab are not only proving that Bioperoxide can be produced in a safe and environmentally friendly manner, but that there is an increasing demand for consumer products and companies that are actively reducing their carbon footprint."

Ode to Clean wipes are now available for purchase at A sleek, low-profile dispenser plus one refill pack retails for $18.


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