07 Jul.
2021

Manchester researchers team up with Callaly to discover recyclable materials for menstrual products

Researchers from the Henry Royce Institute at The University of Manchester’s Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub (SMI Hub) in collaboration with Callaly are working together to find alternative sustainable materials for menstrual hygiene products to help combat the growing need for natural-renewable alternatives for plastics.

New funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has enabled the collaboration which seeks to use surplus materials from shellfish industries to develop bioplastics. The novel materials will replace the stretchable films in feminine hygiene products with an ultimate aim to reduce the use of non-renewable and non-recyclable materials.

Callaly are a UK based developer and manufacturer of menstrual period care products with an international sales footprint. The new project will utilise expertise and state-of-the-art equipment from the SMI Hub to find suitable alternatives to raw polymer materials.

The majority of period care products are designed to address the practical needs for the menstrual cycles and are often made from single-use plastics. Their properties and the excess of organic contamination makes recycling a significant challenge.

By utilising surplus materials from shellfish industries, researchers hope to develop bioplastics that can replace the stretchable films in feminine hygiene products. The properties of the bi-products offer a unique opportunity in developing functional films that are optically transparent, stretchable and have antimicrobial properties.

Commenting on the project, lead researcher and Kathleen Lonsdale Research Fellow in the Department of Materials, Dr Ahu Gumrah Parry said "We’re excited to be teaming up with Callaly on this project. Our efforts will unlock the potential of biopolymers as a biomedical material. Furthermore, using materials from shell fish farming waste streams to conduct this research helps us to enable a circular economy. Where disposal is necessary, such as feminine hygiene products, we want to ensure that the environmental impact is minimized by offering routes for biodegradable and compostable products".

The funding will enable initial research into biodegradable components for Callaly’s award-winning Tampliner products.

Thang Vo-Ta, CEO & Co-Founder at Callaly said "We are delighted to receive this Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funding to test and develop exciting new materials that we can integrate into our products & bespoke manufacturing processes. As a B Corp, Callaly always holds ourselves to the highest standards and to be able to team up with the SMI Hub for greater sustainability in the period care market could make for very meaningful & positive impact".

The SMI Hub is part of the Henry Royce Institute at The University of Manchester and is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Advanced materials is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons - examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet. #ResearchBeacons

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