Explaining Different Sustainable Packaging for Pharmaceuticals
- With as much as 10 million tons of plastic entering the ocean annually, plastic pollution continues to remain a crucial environmental issue.
- It’s crucial for pharmaceutical companies to consider sustainable packaging to lessen the impact of global plastic pollution.
- Pharmaceutical packaging manufacturers are developing a way to manufacture plastic made from sugar cane to create sustainable packaging for pharmaceutical products.
- Using PCR pharmaceutical packaging allows pharmaceutical companies to fulfill their sustainability goals without relying on the consumer to recycle the pharmaceutical packaging after use.
- Pharmaceutical companies can develop a more sustainable packaging solution using PLA materials.
- Since there are still limitations on the use of recycled materials in pharmaceutical packaging production, there are other ways manufacturers can develop more sustainable packaging for pharmaceuticals.
- Companies are also streamlining their packaging processes to improve sustainability and conserve energy during production.
Why Sustainable Packaging Solutions Are Important for Pharmaceuticals
The global pharmaceutical industry is continuing to show significant growth, but with the industry rising to the top, the need to reduce the use of plastic packaging that’s harmful to the environment is also increasing. Around 360 million tons of plastic are produced each year—and up to half of them are single-use items. With as much as 10 million tons of plastic entering the ocean annually, plastic pollution continues to remain an crucial environmental issue. That’s why it’s vital for pharmaceutical companies to consider sustainable packaging solutions to lessen the impact of global plastic pollution and carbon emissions related to manufacturing plastic packaging for pharmaceutical products.
Different Types of Plastic Pharmaceutical Packaging Alternatives
The pharmaceutical industry is trying to reduce its environmental impact by considering sustainable packaging options. In recent years, scientists have begun developing alternatives to plastic pharmaceutical packaging using sustainable materials, such as corn starch gelatin, sugar cane, pectin, and wheat bran.
Below are a few sustainable packaging alternatives currently in development for pharmaceuticals:
Sustainable Packaging Solutions Made From Sugar Cane
Pharmaceutical packaging manufacturers are currently developing a way to manufacture plastic made from sugar cane to create sustainable packaging for pharmaceutical products. Manufacturers say plastic packaging made from sugar cane is biodegradable, estimating that this alternative packaging material degrades within one decade after disposal. Conventional plastic takes hundreds of years to break down, so sugar cane taking about 10 years to degrade is a major advantage for the environment. Tests have shown that sugar cane is as strong and durable as traditional petroleum plastic, proving that manufacturers don’t have to compromise durability when transitioning to more environmentally friendly packaging materials.
This new sustainable packaging alternative is ready for adoption by the pharmaceutical industry, and some companies are already using it for manufacturing pharmaceutical packaging.
Polylactic Acid Sustainable Packaging
Polylactic acid (PLA) sustainable packaging is manufactured from sustainable products, including corn starch, sugar cane, and cassava. Pharmaceutical companies can develop a more sustainable packaging solution using PLA materials. For example, packaging manufacturers using corn mix the kernels with sulfur dioxide and hot water to break down the corn into starch, protein, and fiber components to create a pharmaceutical packaging alternative.
PLA is a promising sustainable pharmaceutical packaging solution, but it’s still in development.
Post-Consumer Recycled Pharmaceutical Packaging
Post-consumer recycled (PCR) packaging is developed from already recycled materials like aluminum, cardboard, paper, and plastic bottles. PCR materials are collected by local recycling companies and sent to sorting facilities to be sorted into bales based on material type. Then, the bales are purchased, developed into small pellets using a melting or grinding method, and molded into sustainable packaging.
PCR packaging cannot be recycled again since it’s already made from recycled materials. However, this allows pharmaceutical companies to fulfill their sustainability goals without relying on the consumer to recycle the pharmaceutical packaging after use.
Your new product is ready to be packaged, but which type of pharmaceutical packaging should you choose—bottle or blister? The short answer is that it depends on the product.
Directives To Help Reduce and Eliminate Waste in Pharmaceutical Packaging
The World Health Organization (WHO) developed three directives to reduce and eventually eliminate waste in pharmaceutical packaging:
- Reduce the use of harmful packaging materials non-essential to drug protection
- Make sure a significant amount of the packaging is recyclable
- Make contaminated packaging incinerator-safe
Since there are still limitations on using recycled content in pharmaceutical packaging production, WHO is encouraging manufacturers to consider other ways to support sustainable packaging solution efforts.
One suggestion is for manufacturing companies to consider the product’s recyclability at the end of its shelf life. Some companies are also achieving reduced packaging by lessening their weight. Modern plastics are thinner but maintain their strength, and thanks to new advances in pharmaceutical packaging designs, manufacturers can maintain the functionality and purpose of packaging using less material.
Companies are also streamlining their packaging processes to improve sustainability and conserve energy during production. For example, industry-leading companies are saving energy during manufacturing by reducing the amount of heat applied to blister packaging to conserve energy, monitoring water consumption closely, and optimizing ventilation systems carefully.
A Leading Supplier of Pharmaceutical Packaging Equipment That Supports Sustainability
As a leading supplier of pharmaceutical packaging equipment, tooling, and parts, Ascend Packaging provides the pharmaceutical industry with bottle filling and blister packaging machinery that supports sustainability. We offer a wide range of small-scale pharmaceutical packaging equipment that allows you to create high-quality, low-volume blister packs for your pharmaceutical products, saving you time, money, and energy. We can also help you choose a packaging material to increase the recyclable content used for your pharmaceutical packaging without compromising functionality. Whether you produce tablets, or capsules, our team can provide you with the expertise and equipment you need to support sustainable packaging solutions. Contact us today to partner with an industry leader in pharmaceutical packaging equipment.
Ascend Packaging Systems LLC.
3885 Industrial Avenue
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008