Manufacturing environmentally-sound processes to create fabrics that increase efficiency and decrease waste

Manufacturing environmentally-sound processes to create fabrics that increase efficiency and decrease waste

Sustainability needs to be custom-sized: what is sustainable for one process or product might not be the best fit for the next. At Ahlstrom-Munksjö, we aim to find the best solutions for each specific product we provide.

The fourth chapter in our article series “Ahlstrom-Munksjö Specialties sustainability journey” focuses on how we help to create a more sustainable tomorrow by manufacturing through environmentally-sound processes to create high performance surgical gown fabrics that are used to protect the lives of healthcare workers and patients. 

Surgical gowns are considered one of the most important protective items during surgical procedures. They play an essential role in protecting the healthcare worker and maintaining sterile conditions by blocking the transfer of harmful microorganisms to and from the patient.  The principal design features of surgical fabrics must meet minimum performance standards for barrier protection, sterilization stability, breathability and comfort. Ahlstrom-Munksjö meets and exceeds these standards with our tri-laminate fabric used to construct surgical gowns.

The construction of the fabric is made up of multi-layer nonwoven fabric commonly known as SMS or Spunbond Meltblown Spunbond.  The top and bottom layers are made up of spunbond polypropylene for strength and, the middle layer of meltblown polypropylene is for barrier protection. SMS has low lint and is highly breathable which helps to keep the wearer cool and comfortable. The highest level of protection that is used for critical environments like an operating room is called BVB or breathable viral barrier fabric.  This fabric has a barrier layer that consists of a monolithic film membrane making it impervious to viral penetration. 

One environmentally-sound enhancement we recently made was to our high performance BVB fabric, ViroSēl™. We lowered the basis weight of the SMS fabric layers which made our next generation BVB fabric, ViroSēl™, 25% lighter than traditional BVB. This enhancement uses fewer raw materials without sacrificing the barrier properties and minimizes a negative environmental impact with less waste being disposed of after surgery.

Our medical fabrics are not the only products where we have been able to execute on our sustainability journey through environmentally-sound processes.  Aderpack™ is a baking paper that has lowest basis weight on the market.  A lower basis weight reduces raw material consumption and waste and increases converting efficiency. 

Remember to come back next month to read about other powerful initiatives that are taking place in the Specialties Business Area to drive innovative and sustainable solutions for every day products.