Sustainability Outside the Box - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Sustainability Outside the Box
Drugmakers and packagers are pursuing various initiatives to reduce their carbon footprints. This article contains bonus material.


Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 35, Issue 10, pp. 40-44

Source reduction


Group provides a voice for packagers
In a survey of CPG companies and converters, more than half (57%) of respondents said they were working on converting to lightweight packages (2). "Reducing weight is driven in part by regulations, but also by cost savings," says Bernard Rioux, marketing and development manager for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at DuPont Packaging and Industrial Polymers.

A package redesign for Pfizer's Centrum multivitamins shows why lightweighting is such a popular tactic. Eliminating the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in the Centrum package and reducing the size of the shipping case saved 60 tons of material during the first year. The smaller shipping cases also allow more product to be shipped per truckload and eliminated the need for 124 trips.


Figure 2: The global market for bioplastics is undergoing a shift as biobased commodity plastics overtake biodegradable materials.
At GSK, packaging changes have eliminated tons of material and carbon-dioxide emissions. For example, a redesigned canister for Ventolin and a transition from corrugated cases to pallet boxes for incoming inhaler components save 305 metric tons of material and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 1550 metric tons per year. Elimination of the PVC tray for Nicoderm resulted in a material savings of 8 metric tons and cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 20 metric tons.

Many tools support source-reduction efforts. One machine minimizes consumption of corrugated cardboard by matching package size to the products being shipped. On-demand conversion of fanfolded corrugated sheet into boxes generates substantial savings in materials, inventory, and transportation costs by reducing the need to purchase and store many sizes of corrugated cases, minimizing cushioning requirements, eliminating out-of-stock and obsolete box inventory, and increasing the amount of product per truckload. In addition, operational efficiency improves because the strategy requires less box handling, less inventory planning and management, and less communication with vendors. The compact unit occupies 100 ft2 of floor space (Right-sized Packaging on Demand system, Packsize International).


A palette of sustainable practices
A service optimizes distribution packaging by evaluating its size, material content, fill, and ability to prevent damage. Packaging that performs acceptably may be marked with a special logo (Eco Responsible Packaging Program, UPS). Suggestions for improvements can be made if a package fails (consulting services, UPS Package Lab).

Software also can be a valuable optimization tool. Life-cycle assessment software compares packaging choices and evaluates its environmental effects. The tool allows users to import their own life-cycle-inventory and life-cycle impact-assessment data, accepts custom end-of-life recycling rates for individual materials, and models criteria to meet the requirements of Walmart's Packaging Scorecard or the Global Packaging Project (PackageSmart life cycle assessment software, EarthShift).

Package design and palletization software, together with cargo-load planning software, size packaging to create the most efficient pallet loads for shipping. Functions include calculating compression or stacking strength to determine the corrugated grade that will protect the product most cost-effectively. The software also optimizes package dimensions to maximize the amount of product shipped per truck or container and creates mixed pallets for display. Savings in corrugated cardboard and transportation costs can reach 20% (TOPS Pro and MaxLoad Pro software, TOPS Engineering; Cape Pack and Truckfill software from CAPE Systems).


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