For years, antimicrobial plastics were only seen in healthcare settings where the need to reduce surface bacteria and germs is a necessity. However, following 2020, we've seen a growing push toward materials that are not only easy to clean and sanitize but that inhibit the growth of bacteria and germs, and thus, more plastics are being manufactured that contain antimicrobial additives. To determine whether this is the right step for your custom plastics, our injection molding company is providing an in-depth look at antimicrobial additives for polymers.
What Is Antimicrobial Plastic?
Simply put, an antimicrobial plastic is a synthetic additive, also called a polymeric biocide, that slows or blocks the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria, mold, and fungi.
Antimicrobial vs Antibacterial
Many people use the terms "antibacterial" and "antimicrobial" interchangeably, and while they're similar, they don't mean the same thing. Antibacterial means that there is an agent that inhibits growth of bacteria (and only bacteria) on the product. Antimicrobial means that it will inhibit the growth of microbes and microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, dust mites, mold spores, and other microscopic organisms.
It's important to note that this does not include viruses. Unfortunately, there is not an additive that currently protects against viruses, including COVID-19.
How Do Antimicrobial Polymers Work?
Many antimicrobial agents are formulated into plastic pellets or are in powder or liquid forms. The pellets are especially useful in injection molding as they allow for very smooth integration into the plastic. As they are incorporated into the plastic, ensuring a comprehensive presence, bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms simply can't live or multiply on these surfaces.
The Benefits of Adding Antimicrobial Additives to Plastics
If you're considering these additives to your next project, but you're not sure if it's necessary, consider these benefits:
The leading benefit of using antimicrobial plastics is that they are safer and more hygienic. Because staph, strep, and MRSA and similar microorganisms can't survive or spread, this minimizes the risk of people acquiring these illnesses. The lack of mold and mites also improves the air quality in the area.
As more people are seeking out safer items and looking to minimize illness, when you can market a product or item as being antimicrobial or antibacterial, it can make it more attractive to consumers.
Bacteria isn't just dangerous to living creatures, certain types of bacteria and microorganisms can break down polymers over time. Including these additives makes the plastic more durable and increases its lifespan.
Common Uses for Treated Plastics
Antimicrobial polymers have primarily been used in healthcare, minimizing the occurrence of bacteria like staph, strep, and MRSA. Restroom surfaces, bed frames, countertops, and other surfaces that need to be kept as sterile as possible are commonly made with these additives.
Treated plastics are also used in the food industry, often used to make things like cutting boards, prep stations, countertops, and even restroom counters and dividers in order to prevent bacteria from contaminating food. Water sanitation and treatment facilities also use plastics containing antimicrobial polymers to minimize and inhibit the growth of microorganisms in drinking water that could make people sick.
Contact Us to Learn More About Custom Plastics with Antimicrobial Coatings
At Advanced Plastiform, Inc., we work with a wide variety of industries, creating custom plastics that meet their exact needs. If you're looking at antimicrobial plastics for use in the healthcare, furniture manufacturing, or other reasons, reach out to us today for a free quote. With low per-unit pricing and fast lead times, we make durable, high-quality custom plastics affordable and accessible to customers across the Mid Atlantic and Southeast, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia.