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Disposable syringe
throw-away plastic hypodermic syringe

By 1949 penicillin injections were being used to treat most bacterial infections, but penicillin tended to clog up glass syringes and make them hard to clean. To solve the problem, Austrian immigrant, Charles Rothauser created the world's first plastic, disposable hypodermic syringe at his Adelaide factory. (Hypodermic means 'under the skin'.)

He made the first syringes in polyethylene. However, because polyethylene softens with heat, the syringes had to be chemically sterilised prior to packaging, which made them expensive. In 1951 Rothauser produced the first injection- moulded syringes made of polypropylene, a plastic that can be heat-sterilised. Millions were made for Australian and export markets.

A pioneer of injection-moulded plastics, Rothauser's other achievements included founding the Caroma bathroom accessories company, and in 1945 converting a war-surplus explosives press to mould 12-litre polyethylene acid jars, at the time the world's largest plastic bottles.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
Industrial Products Ltd : design, manufacture

Bickford Pty Ltd : distributor
Key People
Charles Rothauser, AO : designer, manufacturer

Further Reading
'Charles Rothauser: a pioneer in Australian design'
Anita Herman
Plastic News, March 1986.

'The Century that was plastics', Plastics News International

The original disposable plastic syringe and cover. Powerhouse Museum. Photo Richard Wood.
ATSE Powerhouse Museum