The pharmaceutical industry requires a lot of packaging – posing a challenge to sustainability. But attitudes to sustainable packaging in pharma are changing, with different products and services being created to help pharma businesses become more eco-friendly.
Pharma products need to be sent all around the world, but they can still be handled in an ecological way. One of the ways to make sure that packaging is sustainable is to use reuse, reduce and recycle initiatives to minimise waste.
Here, Origin explores the state of sustainability in the pharma packaging industry and how businesses are reaping the rewards of recycling.
What is sustainable pharmaceutical packaging?
Sustainable pharmaceutical packaging refers to the design and production of products for the pharmaceutical industry that do not upset the environment.
It starts with the use of sustainable materials to create eco-friendly packaging. Materials are selected based on how much of an impact they have on the environment and how easily they can be reused or recycled into new products with as little waste as possible.
However, it is also about adopting processes that reduce the energy needed to produce products – for example, in manufacturing and transport.
Recycling pharmaceutical packaging
Sustainability in pharma packaging has long posed challenges due to the strict regulations placed on the industry to provide packaging that is suitable for its intended use. This means the primary focus of packaging products is to protect contents and add specialist functionality.
For this reason, recycling and sustainability have always taken a back seat to form and function. However, in today’s climate-conscious market, pharma companies are realising they need to play their part in reducing waste and emissions to satisfy modern consumers.
This started with research and development into certain sustainable materials – including glass packaging that can be reused and recycled – as well as businesses reviewing the entire supply chain for its environmental impact.
Studies suggest sustainable solutions now make up 10-25% of the primary pharma packaging market – with this figure expected to grow as businesses continue to increase their eco-efforts.
How can pharmaceutical companies ensure the packaging supply chain is sustainable?
Pharmaceutical companies can follow a few simple rules to keep the packaging supply chain sustainable, including:
- Ensure sustainable material is used – whether it’s recycled materials, compostable polymers or even biodegradable products.
- Optimise transport – limiting the business’ carbon footprint in the logistics stage of pharma packaging.
- Adopting technology, such as advanced machinery, that can be used to create new options like smart packaging applications.
- Focusing on positive patient outcomes – ultimately reducing the number of products, and therefore, packaging that needs producing and the resources invested.
What are the new developments in sustainable packaging?
There are various considerations for pharma companies when looking to make their packaging more sustainable.
Not only are there several key materials that can be recycled without compromising on function – including glass, PE or PET, recycled plastic and biodegradable products – but there is also the opportunity to reduce the amount of material used. When you choose the right material, you can often reduce the amount of packaging required.
Packaging that can be refilled and recycled is already widely in use. However, new developments include biodegradable materials like plastics and even edible packaging that includes starch, gelatin and other materials.
Techniques for creating packaging are also a strong focus – with increased research in the design stage translating to reduced waste when it comes to testing and manufacturing.
How can a sustainable supply chain help?
The use of sustainable packaging materials is just one way that pharma companies can become more eco-friendly.
Creating a sustainable supply chain also helps companies to go green and save money.
This includes ensuring logistics and transport processes are environmentally friendly, as well as using sustainable manufacturing methods for packaging – for example, 3D printing can be used to create packaging in a way that requires less energy and reduces waste.
What is the future of sustainable supply chains in pharma?
Many pharmaceutical companies have begun to take a more sustainable approach to their packaging.
Industry leaders like Johnson & Johnson have made commitments to reducing their use of packaging and using sustainable solutions, while others are creating their own initiatives to push for greater sustainability through packaging and the supply chain.
One campaign aiming to encourage sustainability in the pharmaceutical industry is ‘Pharma in the Environment’, which urges pharma companies to focus on their impact on the environment.
Leading the way in sustainable packaging
Many pharma companies are now switching away from wasteful packaging methods in favour of sustainable methods that make use of recyclable materials and biodegradable plastics. And many businesses are reviewing their logistics processes to accommodate those that are easier on fuel.
At Origin, we’re leading the charge by changing our processes to fit modern needs. From using sustainable materials like PE and PET to adopting 3D modelling techniques, we are drastically reducing waste while also becoming more efficient.
To find out more about how Origin puts sustainability at the forefront of all design and development decisions – and how we can help you on your sustainable packaging journey – chat with our team today.