Used medical needles aren’t just a health risk – they’re an environmental risk, too. Each year, more than one billion syringes, needles and lancets are used by those with diabetes in the U.S. alone, according to the EPA.
One Netherlands technology group thinks they might have found a way to deliver vaccine and medicine in an environmentally conscious way. Bioneedles are “tiny, biodegradable, mini implants” that are pre-filled with vaccines and dissolve in the body in a matter of minutes, according to makers Bioneedle Technology Group. That means there’s no cleanup or disposal necessary.
“Using a material that is quickly biodegradable, capable of holding any type of vaccine, and able to withstand high-speed injection, Bioneedle creators have addressed the major problems of needle-based injections,” the company says on its website. “The Bioneedle is inserted into a patient using an ultra portable hand held applicator. Once beneath the skin, the needle dissolves and releases a vaccine. There is no waste product and a medical professional is not required to deliver injection or dispose of the used needle.”
The company hopes the technology not only limits the unnecessary waste associated with typical medical syringes, but that it opens up a new realm of possibilities for vaccine distribution. The bioneedle allows vaccines to be stored in a thermally stable environment, so vaccines can travel to long distance without the threat of the vaccine “spoiling.”
Though the Bioneedle is still in early stages of development, the idea won the 2012 Katerva Award, awarded for the “pinnacle of recognition for global sustainability excellence.”