Water soluble bag manufacturers produce and supply bags that can be used to isolate, store, transport and clean soiled laundry, uniforms and bed linens in hospitals, prisons, hotels, and other health related facilities. These bags are designed to degrade in a cold wash laundry cycle and offer an environmentally friendly and hygienic alternative to disposable plastic bags. They are made from 2.75 mil PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) and are printed with a red biohazard warning label and the words “WATER SOLUABLE” printed in black.
They are suitable for use with a wide range of fabrics, including cotton, polyester, wool and silk, as well as a number of other materials such as synthetics and blends. Water soluble bags are not recommended for use with delicate fabrics, such as cashmere, as the PVA film can damage them. They are also not suitable for machine drying or heat treating as the PVA material may disintegrate in these conditions.
In some embodiments, a composite uniplanar water soluble film comprises a strip of cold water soluble plastic film bonded at its edge to a strip of hot water soluble plastic film. The hot water soluble strip may be attached to the cold water soluble strip using adhesive. The composite uniplanar film can be used to make laundry bags.
These bags can be used to collect contaminated medical instruments, articles, patient bedding and linens in hospitals and nursing homes. Once the bag is filled with soiled laundry, it can be sealed up and transported to a washing or disinfection facility for cleaning. The bags can then be used to dispose of the dirty laundry and the contents of the bag. The cold water soluble or biodegradable bags can then be washed and disinfected, as required by infection control protocols.
Some of the companies that manufacture PVA-based polybags have been suggesting that they are a sustainable solution to single-use plastics. However, there are a number of issues with this claim. One of the key problems is that, whilst they are biodegradable, they do not have a defined end-of-life strategy. The suggested end-of-life pathways for the PVA polybags involve dissolution in water or industrial composting, both of which would require significant new production of virgin materials to replace it. The environmental impact of this is very high. Another issue is that the PVA-based polybags have a much higher carbon footprint than the Low-Density Polyethylene that traditional LDPE polybags are made from. A recent white paper by the main producer of PVA for use in water-soluble polybags makes this very clear. This paper was later revised, but the change did not address this. It is therefore difficult to see how the PVA polybags can be considered a truly green solution to single-use plastics. Nevertheless, there are some encouraging signs that the market is beginning to demand sustainable options. These include products such as the EKO TEX water soluble bags and BioHaz bags that are manufactured in Germany. These bags are also biodegradable and are designed to be scavenged by a variety of animals, indicating that they are likely to become an accepted alternative to the current use of conventional plastics.