Is gauze biodegradable? (3 types of gauzes)

This article shall answer the question of the biodegradability of gauze.

It also shall cover some other areas such as :

  • Properties of gauze.
  • Applications of gauze.
  • Component of gauze.
  • Eco-friendliness of gauze.

Is gauze biodegradable?

Yes, some types of gauze are made up of natural, biodegradable materials such as cotton. Cotton is a plant product that is susceptible to microbial breakdown.

Other types of gauze are made from synthetic fibers such as rayon and polyester. These synthetic materials are not susceptible to microbial degradation and therefore, they render gauze made of them non-biodegradable.

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradation is the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi into the water, carbon dioxide, methane, and minerals. Heat energy is produced in the process.

Biodegradation occurs in three distinct stages biodeterioration, bio-fragmentation, and assimilation.

Biodeterioration is the first stage of biodegradation that involves abiotic factors such as light, UV radiation, and water to help in the weakening of the structure of organic substances.

Bio-fragmentation is the second stage that involves the physical breakdown of organic matter into small particles, this is due to the biodeterioration of the organic matter in the first stage.

Assimilation is the last stage of biodegradation. It involves the bacteria and the fungi taking up the minerals and small biomass produced by the previous two stages into their biological systems.

The minerals are used as a source of energy and carbon for the synthesis of cells and tissues.

Biodegradation can occur in the presence or absence of oxygen. When biodegradation involves the microorganisms using oxygen, the process is called aerobic biodegradation.

Aerobic biodegradation produces carbon dioxide, water, and small biomass. Heat energy is also produced in the process. Aerobic biodegradation occurs very fast but it is not very efficient.

When biodegradation occurs in the absence of oxygen, it is called anaerobic biodegradation. The products of anaerobic biodegradation include water, carbon dioxide, and small biomass. In addition to these products, methane gas is also produced. Heat energy is released during the breakdown. 

Anaerobic biodegradation occurs slowly but is more efficient than aerobic biodegradation.

Biodegradation can be affected by several factors such as water, light, temperatures, the bioavailability of a molecule, and pH.

Water helps in the biodeterioration and mechanical fragmentation of substances, increasing the surface area for microbial degradation.

Light emits radiations that help in the biodeterioration and bio-fragmentation of organic matter. UV radiation is the most effective radiation. 

Temperature affects the rate of biodegradation. Some microorganisms are very active in high temperatures while others are active in low temperatures. The optimum temperatures for the microorganisms increase the rate of biodegradation.

Bioavailability is the availability of an organic substance to microorganisms. Highly concentrated organic matter has high bioavailability and this increases the rate of biodegradation.

pH is the measure of acidity or basicity of a substance. Some microorganisms are very active in acidic pH while others are active in neutral or alkaline pH. Optimum pH increases the rate of biodegradation.

What is gauze?

Gauze is a thin, translucent fabric. It is made by arranging weft yarns in pairs and crossing them with warp threads.

The addition of warp threads helps to keep the yarn more stable. The weight of yarn can be increased depending on the purpose of the gauze.

Wire gauze is made from metallic elements such as iron, steel, copper, or an alloy of metals.

Types of gauzes.

There are different types of gauzes depending on the material used or the mechanisms used to make them.

The following are examples of gauzes.

Woven gauze.

This is a loosely woven gauze that is usually made from cotton fabric. Cotton allows the gauze to absorb or wick the exudate and other fluids from treated wounds.

Woven gauze can be made from smooth or rough meshwork. Coarse gauze is mostly used to remove dead cells and tissues from wounds while fine gauze is used for packing wounds.

Non-woven gauze.

This type of gauze is made from pressing fibers together rather than weaving them. Non-woven gauze has better absorbency and wicking than woven gauze.

Non-woven gauze is usually made from synthetic fibers such as polyester or rayon. Sometimes it can be made by blending the synthetic fibers with cotton. 

Non-woven gauze is softer, bulkier, and stronger than woven gauze. It leaves less lint on wounds than woven gauze.

Wire gauze.

Wire gauze is a thin meshwork of metallic wire that has been woven into a net-like material.

Some parts of wire gauze are made from ceramics. 

Wire gauze is made from metallic elements such as nichrome, iron, steel, or copper. It can also be made from alloys. 

Wire gauze is used in the laboratory for:

  • It is placed on a tripod stand to support glassware such as beakers and flasks during heating.
  • It is attached to the retort stand when heating glassware with a Bunsen burner.
  • Wire gauze is used in a safety lamp or screen spark arrestor.

Applications of gauze.

Gauze is used in different ways. The following are some of the uses of gauze.

  • It is used for the medical dressing of wounds. Medical gauzes are usually made of cotton.

Cotton is preferred over other fabrics because it does not stick to the burns.

The medical gauze can be impregnated with a creamy mixture of zinc oxide and calamine to help in the healing process.

  • Gauze is used in medical procedures involving accidental tooth loss. The gauze can be used to apply pressure to the tooth as it is being returned to its original position, or it can be used to wrap the tooth, and placed it in milk or saline solution to keep the teeth alive as it is prepared for returning to its position.
  • It is used in film and theater to act as a scrim.
  • It is used in bookbinding.
  • Some gauze is used in the making of clothes such as veils.

What are the components of gauze?

Initially, gauze was made from silk, but today gauze is mostly from cotton and synthetic fibers such as rayon and polyester.

Cotton is used to make woven gauze while rayon and polyester are used to make non-woven gauze.

Cotton.

This is a soft fluffy fiber that grows in a boll around the seeds of cotton plants.

It is mainly made of cellulose but can have small amounts of fats, pectins, wax, and water 

There are 4 distinct types of cotton depending on the cotton plant species. They include:

  • Gossypium hirsutum; accounts for almost 90% of the world’s production.
  • Gossypium barbadense is also called extra-long-staple cotton. It accounts for almost 8% of the world’s production.
  • Gossypium arboreum; also called tree cotton. It accounts for less than 2% of the world’s production.
  • Gossypium herbaceum; also called levant cotton. It accounts for less than 2% of the world’s production.

Properties of cotton.

  • It has a high luster.
  • It has high tensile strength.
  • It has low resilience to chemicals.
  • It decomposes under high temperatures.
  • It is non-irritating to the user.
  • It is hypoallergenic.

Rayon.

This is a semi-synthetic fiber made from natural cellulose from wood and animal products and other chemical substances.

Properties of rayon textile.

These are the properties of rayon textile.

  • It is more slippery than natural fibers.
  • It has the same texture as silk, wool, and cotton depending on the chemicals used to process it.
  • It is easily dyed into different colors.
  • It is smooth, soft, and has high adsorbent properties.
  • They have low durability as compared to other fibers

Polyester.

Polyester is a polymer of ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid.

It is one of the most used plastic polymers in industries and homes.

Properties of polyethylene terephthalate.

The properties of polyethylene terephthalate include the following:

  • It is inert.
  • It is a strong and highly durable material.
  • It is resistant to microbial degradation.
  • It is lightweight and therefore easy to carry.
  • It is fully recyclable.

Is gauze eco-friendly?

Eco-friendliness is the ability of something not to cause any harm to the environment.

Going by this definition, gauze is eco-friendly because it does not pollute the environment.

However, the gauze wastes should be disposed of responsibly because gauzes made from plastics do not biodegradable and will therefore pollute the environment by accumulating in landfills and water bodies.

Cotton-based gauze is biodegradable and therefore does not pollute the environment.

According to a study on biodegradable gauzes, it is important to look at the ingredients label to determine if gauze is made from biodegradable materials or not.

Conclusion.

This article has answered the question of the biodegradability of gauze.

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • Types of gauzes.
  • Properties and uses of gauzes
  • Components of gauzes.
  • Eco-friendliness of gauzes.

For any questions or comments please use the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is gauze biodegradable?

Are wound dressings biodegradable?

Yes, wound dressings made of natural products such as cotton are biodegradable. Those made from synthetic fibers such as rayon and polyester are non-biodegradable.

Can I put gauze on an open wound?

Yes, gauze can be used to cover an open wound to keep it away from dirt and microorganisms.

Is all gauze sterile?

Gauze can be either sterilized or not. Gauze meant to be used on wounds should be sterilized to avoid contaminants such as bacteria.

Citations.

Sophie Hirsh. ( July 29, 2019). Is Zero-Waste First Aid Possible? These Compostable Bandages Can Help. An article on GREEN MATTERS.

Retrieved from:

https://www.greenmatters.com/p/zero-waste-first-aid-patch-compostable-bandages

Serebrennik, Mikhail (20 September 2016). “What is the difference between woven and non-woven gauze?”. Lighthouse Medical Supplies.

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