OR WAIT null SECS
Pharma companies set goals and adopt more sustainable alternatives.
Consumers favor sustainable products. A survey by Shorr Packaging shows that 76% of shoppers surveyed have made a conscious effort to purchase more sustainable products in the past year. An even stronger majority, 86%, are more likely to purchase a product from a brand or retailer if the packaging is considered sustainable. Additionally, 77% expect more brands/retailers to offer 100% sustainable packaging for their products soon (1).
When shopping, 64% of the consumers surveyed consider whether the packaging can be recycled; 60% look for packaging with recycled content; 60% seek source-reduced designs (no overpackaging); 45% want biodegradable packaging; and 28% like paper-based packaging. Approximately 68% are open to switching to a brand that offers sustainable packaging. This is particularly true of younger consumers (1). A report from Euromonitor International comes to the same conclusion, noting Millennials and Generation Z feel they can make a difference through their choices. This largest spending cohort of the future will rely on tech tools, such as digital product labeling and mobile tracking apps, to check environmental claims and ensure minimal climate impact (2).
Clear labeling of sustainability attributes also is important, with 69% saying they are more likely to purchase a product when there’s clear language/symbols on the packaging that states it uses sustainable materials (1). With recyclability, recycled content, and biodegradability top-of-mind, paper-based packaging ticks all the boxes and is favored by almost one-third of the consumers in the Shorr Packaging study.
To meet this demand, Keystone Folding Box has completed a $5 million upgrade that boosts capacity by 20% for its product line that includes secondary blister packages made from recyclable and compostable paperboard. Its Ecoslide Series of blister packs features a safety feature that provides the most stringent F=1 child resistance while eliminating the need for a two-step “peel/push-through foil,” which many consumers find difficult to open. Including Ecoslide-OTC for over-the-counter medicines as well as its signature Ecoslide-RX pack for prescription drugs, the sustainable package platform reduces the amount of disposable plastic needed for peel/push CR blisters (3).
Blister cards themselves also are becoming more sustainable. TekniPlex Healthcare has launched a fully transparent, recyclable, mid-barrier blister package. Certified via third-party testing, the recyclable polypropylene (PP)/cyclic olefin copolymer/PP base material with barrier PP lidding is said to be a first in the healthcare industry. From a manufacturing standpoint, initial machinability analyses have been positive, with large-scale tests scheduled. TekniPlex Healthcare also has premiered a fully recyclable polyester mono-material blister. It’s suitable for products that do not require barrier protection (4).
Incorporating post-consumer-recycled (PCR) content in packaging is viewed as highly desirable by the industry and consumers, but can pose challenges due to supply chain and quality issues. Avient’s PCR Color Prediction Service for polyolefins and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resins and Cesa Nox A4R Additives for Recycling eliminate the trial-and-error of adopting PCR content and associated color choices. The PCR Color Prediction Service helps brand owners understand what colors are achievable based on the amount of PCR used. Proprietary software determines—through prior color matching—what colors are feasible in an application that incorporates PCR content. It also calculates how much PCR content can be added without affecting the package’s signature color. The faster evaluation process is particularly helpful if it becomes necessary to switch sources of PCR material (5).
The Cesa Nox A4R Additives for Recycling protects PCR polyolefins against oxidation, which can lead to defects like black spots, gels, and
discoloration. The antioxidant can be added to PCR content early in
the recycling process or incorporated in virgin resin to prepare it for
future recycling (5).
Schreiner MediPharm has set goals to increase its use of recycled/renewable materials, including the simplification of disassembly for recycling and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. As a result, it recently introduced more sustainable options of its Pharma-Tac label for infusion bottles and its Autoinjector-Label. Both new designs rely on film materials that are either recycled or produced from renewable raw materials. Extensive in-house testing shows the more sustainable materials perform as reliably as conventional substrates. For example, the Pharma-Tac label passed load and gravitational trials, and both the hanger label and Autoinjector-Label passed tests for adhesion, ink adhesion, print durability, and laser marking viability (6).
More sustainable tube options also are available. Hoffmann Neopac now offers Neopac mono-material barrier tubes, which are recyclable in the polyethylene (PE) or PP material stream. Neopac’s Polyfoil MMB mono-material barrier tubes have undergone successful testing by RecyClass, an initiative of Plastics Recyclers Europe. MMB structures, with and without thin film metallization, met recycling requirements set by the US-based Association of Plastic Recyclers (7). The MMB tube can reduce packaging carbon footprints by up to 38% compared to traditional laminated tubes. The tube body is made possible through a first-of-its-kind adhesive-laminated process, an alternative to conventional blown-film and extruded-film methods. Key advantages include advanced barrier and aesthetic options in the tube body. The tube’s shoulder and cap are made with low-melt-flow-index high-density PE and only 2% foreign material (8).
However, the majority of tubes used in Europe are aluminum barrier laminates (ABLs). These multi-material tubes currently cannot be industrially separated and recycled in existing recycling facilities. To solve this problem, Hoffmann Neopac has partnered with Saperatec, which has developed washing technology and established a pilot plant to separate the PE and aluminum for recycling in existing facilities. A laboratory study at Saperatec in spring 2021 with various ABL tubes from Neopac showed that its Polyfoil tubes can be completely separated (8).
“In addition to the already existing environmentally friendly and recyclable tubes from our EcoDesign portfolio, we are committed to a recycling solution for our conventional Polyfoil ABL tubes,” said Peter Bossert, head of materials development at Hoffmann Neopac. “With this new initiative, we will offer our customers the best possible balance between product safety and sustainability. As early as this year, we will make a portion of our production waste available to Saperatec to demonstrate its recyclability on an industrial scale, per the promising laboratory tests that have been performed. With the pending recycling of ABL tubes, we are closing a recycling gap in our portfolio.” After testing the separation of production waste, Neopac and Saperatec plan to study the possibility of using the separated materials in the production of new tubes (8).
Saperatec began construction of its industrial separation facility in December 2021 in Dessau, Germany. Scheduled to start up in mid-2023, the plant will recycle composite packaging waste made of aluminum, plastic, and paper. The process will be further developed by refining technologies such as digital watermarking, eddy-current detection, and near-infrared detection to enable intelligent sorting of ABL packaging into an ABL packaging material stream. “With the construction of the first recycling plant for composite materials made of plastic, paper, and aluminum, we aim to produce high-quality, film-ready plastic recyclates for packaging applications while returning the recovered aluminum to the material cycle,” concluded Thorsten Hornung, managing director of Saperatec (8).
Members of the pharmaceutical value chain are looking beyond product development to meet sustainability goals. Schreiner MediPharm, for example, is a founding member of the Alliance to Zero, a non-profit partnership dedicated to enhancing sustainability throughout the pharmaceutical supply chain. Launched in June 2021 and based in Switzerland, the initiative is designed to support pharmaceutical and biotech companies in their transition to net-zero emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement (9).
The Alliance to Zero pursues the goal of launching net-zero pharmaceutical products in regulated markets by 2030 at the latest. To achieve this, the founding members have committed to developing a joint net-zero offering by 2026 to provide pharmaceutical companies with enough time to finalize their overall product on this basis.
The Alliance has developed a roadmap for a net-zero emissions concept for pharmaceutical production and the supply chain. Currently, necessary steps and a harmonized language are being developed, and principles are being defined for evaluating and monitoring the entire emissions footprint of pharmaceutical end products. In addition, the Alliance is planning to collaborate with academic and non-profit organizations pursuing similar goals.
Dr. Thomas Schweizer, president of Schreiner MediPharm, emphasized the importance of the company’s membership in the Alliance: “For Schreiner MediPharm, as a pioneer in the production of innovative functional labels, sustainability starts as early as in product development that considers all life cycles to achieve a reduced environmental footprint. For us, co-founding the Alliance to Zero means another important step toward holistic sustainability. We are convinced that, together with the other Alliance partners, we will be able to drive the development of net-zero pharmaceutical products.”
The Alliance to Zero encompasses component suppliers, machine manufacturers and assembly/manufacturing service providers, manufacturers of primary and secondary packaging, and companies responsible for final product assembly or handling products that have been returned after use. Other founding members include Dätwyler, Harro Höfliger, HealthBeacon, Körber Pharma, SCHOTT, Sharp, and Ypsomed. The close collaboration across traditional company boundaries, as well as the specialized expertise of each partner, will result in the development of holistic solutions that will move the pharmaceutical industry closer to net zero.
1. Shorr Packaging, “The 2022 Sustainable Packaging Consumer Report,” White Paper, July 20, 2022.
2. Euromonitor International, Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2022, Report, January 2022.
3. Keystone Folding Box, “Keystone Folding Box Co. Completes Multi-Million-Dollar Production Equipment Installation,” News Release, October 2022.
4. TekniPlex Healthcare, “At PACK EXPO, TekniPlex Healthcare to Debut World’s First Fully Transparent Recyclable Mid-Barrier Blister Package,” News Release, October 2022.
5. Avient, “Avient Debuts Next-Generation Solutions to Facilitate Use of Recycled Plastics in Packaging Applications,” News Release, June 16, 2022.
6. Schreiner MediPharm, “At PACK EXPO, Schreiner MediPharm to Debut Functional Labels Designed from More Sustainable Materials,” News Release, October 2022.
7. Hoffmann Neopac, “Neopac’s Polyfoil MMB Tube Approved by USA’s Association of Plastic Recyclers,” News Release, Jan. 30, 2022.
8. Hoffmann Neopac, “Closing the Loop with Aluminum Barrier Tubes,” News Release, Feb. 22, 2022.
9. Schreiner MediPharm, “For a Sustainable Pharma Supply Chain: Schreiner MediPharm Among Founding Members of ‘Alliance to Zero,’” News Release, Oct. 7, 2021.
Hallie Forcinio is packaging editor for Pharmaceutical Technology.
Volume 46, Number 11
When referring to this article, please cite it as H. Forcinio, “Consumers Seek Sustainable Products,” Pharmaceutical Technology 46 (11) (2022).