iSpeak Blog

End-Of-Life Management for Single-Use Products in Bioproduction Part 2


In the iSpeak Blog posting on 14 March 2023, the first part of this blog series introduced the results of a survey that was conducted of users of single-use assemblies. The focus of the survey was on current sustainability goals that end user organizations have committed to and the practices of disposal for those single-use assemblies. In Part 2 of this series, we further summarize the survey findings with a focus on identifying opportunities to improve end of life management of single-use assemblies’ disposal. This includes both the actions users are willing to own at the site level as well as how suppliers could be a part of more robust solutions.

Future Intent – Opportunities to improve single-use assembly waste outcomes

In the second part of our survey, we aimed to identify potential opportunities and the end users’ willingness to contribute to better end of life solutions for single-use assemblies. The good news for our industry is that most of the respondents in this survey were supportive in becoming more actively engaged in effective end-of-life management solutions.

From survey responses, the preferred methods of disposal for single use assemblies were incineration with energy capture, mechanical recycling and chemical recycling, which showed similar results.

  • 74% of respondents selected recycling, chemical, and/or mechanical
  • 42% of respondents selected incineration with energy capture (note that more than one option could be selected)
  • Incineration (without energy capture) and landfill were selected by the least number of respondents with 18% and 5%, respectively.

Overall, the majority of respondents are looking to dispose of single-use assembly waste in a more sustainable manner with chemical and mechanical recycling being top choices. There are currently limited options for recycling, but increased demand for solutions may help increase the available options.


Recycling requires one or more additional steps to support re-routing waste compared to landfill disposal. When surveyed, 92% (35/38) of respondents indicated they are willing to take additional actions in handling the single-use assemblies and/or packaging to allow for better end of life management. If better end of life management were available, approximately half of the respondents would be willing to sort packaging separately (55% of mentions), remove metal components (50% of mentions), and/or decontaminate single-use assemblies (47% of mentions). Additionally, 42% of respondents would be willing to remove tubing from single-use assemblies. 8% of respondents suggested they’d be willing to take the extra step to sort plastic types separately and to contrast, 8% indicated they would not be willing to do any of the actions listed. Note that more than one option could be selected and 53% of respondents selected 2 or more options.

Overall, the majority of respondents would be willing to take action in handling the single-use assembly waste in order to enable more sustainable disposal options. Packaging sorting is a simpler action that could be more easily adopted. Removal of specific components within the single-use assemblies requires more labor and could potentially be more feasible if changes in product design allowed for this. Decontamination requires more labor as well but has benefits in reducing biohazardous waste volumes.


In evaluating the contribution suppliers of products can make to improve end-of-life outcomes, the survey results showed that 64% of respondents indicated they would pay a premium price for better end-of-life management by the supplier of the products they purchase.

Out of those respondents that indicated they would pay a premium price; below is as summary of how much added cost they would consider acceptable:

  • 55% of respondents would pay 5-10% more for a product with better end of life management
  • 21% would pay 10-15% more
  • 21% would pay <5% more
  • 5% would pay >15%.


This shows that over half of the respondents would be willing to pay a small premium for the products they purchase for more sustainable disposal options. Purchasing cost sensitivities can impact the decision to choose a more sustainable product but looking more holistically at the total product life cycle cost may show a cost benefit if disposal impacts are reduced.

Survey participants were asked to rank various potential supplier offerings for better end-of-life management of single-use assemblies. The top 3 ranked options were:

  1. Have a third-party recycling company that can offer recycling and transport at the same or lower cost than current disposal method.
  2. Supplier optimizing packaging/reducing packaging waste.
  3. Additional cost for end-of-life management but with a more environmentally sustainable solution for disposal.

If suppliers improved the single-use assembly design for better end-of-life management, then most of the users would consider them for their processes.

85% percent of those responding would consider the improved designs for new and existing processes. Of which, 59% percent would consider replacing assemblies for existing processes. Respondents also indicated that their organizations would dedicate additional resources to supporting improved end-of-life management (81%). Typically, up to an added 10 hours a week (78%) is considered acceptable.

When asked for their suggestions of how suppliers can help in improving end-of-life management

15 people responded. The responses are grouped into the following categories with number of respondents shown in parenthesis.

  • More information on options and approaches (4).
  • Design the assemblies to be easily disassembled (4).
  • Reduce the extent of single-use assemblies by using reusable systems (2).
  • Suppliers take back used components/systems (2).

Other comments are aligned to approaches to recycling. For example, looking at greater use of thermoplastics for melting (1) and reuse through to chemical and biological approaches to recycling (2).

It is likely that the survey is self-selecting i.e. those that have a strong interest in this area have responded. However, it is encouraging that those that did respond are keen to actively take part in improving end-of-life management.

The survey respondents all have a strong commitment to recycling and actively supporting recycling efforts through the commitment of utilizing internal resources. Users are open to incorporating innovative designs for components/systems that ease end of life management.


In Part 2 of this series, these survey results provide an insight into the users’ views on what they consider are the preferred disposal methods for single-use assemblies. Many users recognize that changing current practices would require different procedures and internal practices. Further, because the availability of alternatives today is limited, changes in current practices may require industry collaborations and leadership from one or more stakeholders.

Overall, the research summarized in this two-part series points to the following as likely viable options:

  • For manufacturers: Design changes that facilitate disassembly at end-of-life or greater recyclability, optimize and reduce packaging waste, provide end-of-life solutions
  • For end-users: Dedicate resource time to decontaminate and remove parts of the single-use assemblies to enable recycling
  • For recyclers: Partner with suppliers to provide design recommendations for products that enable recycling and to conduct feasibility for recyclability of current designs

A common end user goal is to reduce the carbon emissions and environmental footprint associated with disposal of single-use solutions in the bioprocessing industry. There is a strong shared feeling that current waste methods are inadequate and can be improved; and this is borne out by the survey of users.

Direction is provided by the survey results. Of the options outlined there is a need to evaluate which of the above viable options offers the greatest potential for improvements for a given situation. In addition, looking outside at how other sectors tackle this issue would help inform our industry as we evaluate options.

By ISPE’s Disposables Community of Practice and the Sustainability Sub-Team

View Part 1: End-Of-Life Management for Single-Use Products in Bioproduction Part 1