Polypropylene: Is It Naturally Antibacterial?

Written by Jonathan Clapp, International Senior Technical Manager

What is Polypropylene?

Polypropylene (PP) is a thermoplastic polymer resin and the second-most widely produced commodity plastic. There are three general types of PP: homopolymer, random co-polymer, and block co-polymer. The material’s versatile nature means it is used for a variety of applications such as packaging, food storage containers, non-woven textiles, fibres and carpets. Some of the key benefits of polypropylene include:

  • It has a high melting point
  • It is converted using a wide range of processing techniques
  • It is more hydrophobic than other plastics
  • It has good chemical resistance to a wide range of bases and acids
  • It is lightweight and flexible
  • It is relatively durable

Can Bacteria Grow on Polypropylene?

The simple answer is yes - bacteria CAN grow on polypropylene. Frequent touch combined with lapses in cleaning will inevitably expose the material to bacteria and may even result in cross contamination from surface to surface and surface to person.

There are some situations where polypropylene will display inherent antibacterial efficacy. This is often the product of using residual mould release and external lubricants, UV additives, and even flame retardants (particularly brominated types). However, it is important to note that antibacterial marketing claims cannot be made about any material without it containing an appropriately registered biocide. This means that even if an untreated polypropylene product displays inherent antibacterial efficacy, it cannot be marketed as having antibacterial properties.

Regulations governing the use of biocides include Article 95 of the EU Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) 528/2012 and registrations under the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Rise in Demand for Polypropylene with Antibacterial Properties

Polypropylene is commonly used in hygiene-critical, high traffic environments such as food processing facilities and hospitals. The nature of these environments means there is now a rise in demand for polypropylene to have a built-in defence against harmful microorganisms, helping to address cross contamination and infection control issues.

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Polypropylene Products & Built-In Microban® Antibacterial Technology

Microban has a long history of treating all kinds of polypropylene with proven antibacterial technologies. Our proven formulations are typically added to a polypropylene product at the stage of manufacture using a thermoplastic masterbatch additive. This additive will have been carefully crafted to ensure the best match for flow characteristics of the host polymer, ultimately aiding its dispersion within the treated product. The addition rate of the masterbatch is calculated based on the total weight of the product to ensure robust performance in the finished piece.

Our formulative recommendations are based on the following criteria:

  • Product efficacy requirements (i.e. antibacterial, anti-mould)
  • Desired end use (i.e. commercial kitchen, hospital)
  • Distribution (i.e. global vs. one country)

Microban® technology is used and trusted by a plethora of polypropylene product manufacturers to create extrusion spun-bonded hospital privacy curtains, food storage containers, chopping boards and hybrid textile materials, to name but a few.

If you are looking to innovate your plastic products with antibacterial and/or anti-mould properties, contact a member of our experienced team today.