Keep Your Eye on Optimization

As you set out to reduce material use as part of a sustainability initiative, make sure you keep product protection high on your list.

ISTA (the International Safe Transit Association) is getting close to finalizing its “Responsible Packaging by Design” protocol, which gives packaging professionals a “flow-chart” approach to examining existing packaging and potentially more-sustainable alternatives. ISTA chairman Joan Pierce, who is also vice president, packaging sustainability, for Colgate Palmolive, explains that the draft protocol is going through final reviews and edits. The association aims to begin protocol training programs later this fall.

In preparing the “Responsible Packaging by Design” protocol, ISTA drew from metrics prepared as part of the Global Packaging Project sponsored by the Consumer Goods Forum, as well as from work by INCPEN and EUROPEN. These last two groups are participating in the review process, as are the Sustainable Packaging Coalition; ISO subcommittee, Packaging and the Environment; the Environmental Protection Agency; Wal-Mart; SGS Testing; and certain state government agencies.
While ISTA has been working with groups active in several different industries, it was actually prompted down this road after working closely with biotech maker Amgen on the standard global thermal profiles behind Standard 20.

“Amgen had spent years writing a test protocol to give them a 99.99% confidence level that its cold-chain products could arrive safely,” says Pierce. “It decided to donate that protocol to ISTA, and we went through
rigorous validation. We then decided to apply that approach toward optimization to the then-emerging trends toward minimization of materials.”

The “Responsible Packaging by Design” protocol features an eight-stage approach to optimization. It also suggests the development of a Master Test Plan listing all test methods that a package must be subjected to, and that plan must be approved by the company’s ranking technologist, says Pierce.

“It should list all the tests that must be conducted prior to launch,” she explains. Such a plan should help pharmaceutical and medical device companies ensure that any steps taken toward a more-sustainable package are adequately tested to ensure product safety and efficacy.

In keeping with her interest in sustainability, Pierce is leading AMERIPEN as president. “AMERIPEN will further enhance the packaging value chain’s commitment to continuously improving its sustainability profile and reducing packaging waste,” Pierce stated in a press release. “The organization will play an instrumental role in conveying this message to opinion leaders in North America and ensuring that participants in the packaging value chain have maximum scope to innovate, compete, and operate in a resource-efficient way.”

Ideally, as manufacturers consider materials reduction or elimination, they’ll keep package optimization in mind, says Pierce, who once worked for Bausch and Lomb.

“Companies must ensure that products get the protection they need, despite source reductions and weight reductions,” she advises.

Daphne Allen

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