Packaging Suppliers Could Help Hospitals Reduce Waste
Improving the management of waste—and perhaps even eliminating it—will be a key issue in the coming years for hospitals around the world. "The best waste is the one you don’t produce," expressed Jean-Rémy Bitaud, Directeur du Projet Management Durable de l’AP-HP, France, who spoke at Pharmapack 2010 earlier this year. Millions of tons of waste produced each year "force us to consider the future much differently," he told the audience. Discussions of carbon taxes throughout the European Union make reducing waste even more imperative, he added.
During his presentation, "Working towards Sustainable Hospital Management: Constraints and Opportunities," Bitaud urged everyone involved in hospital procurement to work together to find ways to reduce waste, including suppliers.
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Suppliers of packaging technologies who spoke at Pharmapack have taken up the charge.
For instance, Amcor Flexibles had set forth resource reduction goals years ago, explained Roy Christopherson, R&D director, Amcor Flexibles, in "Environmentally Friendly Solutions for Solid Oral Dose Packaging." The global company set out to reduce greenhouse gases by 60% by 2030 from 2005/2006 levels, and to reduce water use by 45% by 2011. It also aimed to reduce the waste it sent to landfills by 30% by 2011, and it is already ahead of that target.
Constantia Hueck-Folien is making reductions, too. By 2015, it will have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 20%, explained Stefan Frischmann, head of product development for the Pharma & Film division. "It did go up 1% in 2008, but we opened a pharma center that year." Frischmann presented "Innovative Films/Foil Solutions–Technical Requirements versus Regulatory Affairs from a Converter Perspective."
From a process level, Constantia Hueck-Folien is focusing on continuous improvement to use energy efficiently, such as through heat recovery. It is also employing a closed water system for cooling processes.
However, the packaging substrate itself makes up a significant part of a product’s carbon footprint, perhaps as high as 73%, explained Christopherson. Consequently, Amcor has been focusing on material innovations. For instance, it has been experimenting with a "PCR [postconsumer recycled content] center layer using materials that would otherwise go to landfills," said Christopherson. In addition, it has been "downgauging foil from 12 microns to 8 microns, which also reduces polyethylene use by 20%."
Amcor also offers cyclic olefin copolymer (COC) films for blister packaging. "COC has a lower specific gravity than PVdC-coated PVC and a 35% weight reduction per unit packed," he explained. "It offers the same barrier at an equivalent price point."
Constantia Hueck-Folien has developed films and foils that can seal to and peel from PLA on a solvent basis as well as using water-based formulations.
An audience member asked Christopherson about the acceptability of PCR polyester in terms of traceability. "PE is harder to trace, but the source could be milk bottles," he replied. "It is not easy but requirements are being met in food packaging. Drug companies are risk averse, but the possibilities are there."
Manfred Zurkirch, CEO Dividella AG, Switzerland, suggested the use of paperboard packaging as an alternative to plastic trays for holding syringes and other devices in place in secondary carton packaging. His presentation, "Sustainability in Pharmaceutical Packaging Made Measurable," described the company’s top-loading NeoTOP cartons that include built-in paperboard inserts for holding and housing syringes and other pharmaceutical devices. "Not only can you reduce the use of plastic, you can cut package size when comparing NeoTOP with packages using side-loading plastic trays, and you can run packaging lines with greater efficiency."
For instance, Zurkirch reports that trays can often be a challenge to feed on a packaging line. "Trays can be stacked 50 high on a feeder, while paper cartons and inserts sitting as flat blanks can be stacked a 1000 high and erected on the line," he says. Labor associated with feeding can be minimized.
NeoTOP has been used by many pharmaceutical companies for vaccine packaging maintained in the cold chain, Zurkirch reports. "Fifty percent of the products that run on our machines go into the cold chain. Coated paper has not seen any issues; it provides adequate product protection by resisting humidity and cold temperatures. The cartons can also be made tamper evident."
Zurkirch presented several slides to the audience showing the production of fossil fuels and other elements, comparing the use of PVC, aluminum, polypropylene, and top-loading paperboard cartons. He stressed the importance of basing decisions on complete life-cycle assessment concepts.
He also cited data provided by a top-five pharmaceutical company in 2009 that showed the company saved more than $3 million dollars shipping 12 million boxes over the course of one year. Shipping side-loaded cartons with plastic trays cost six cents per syringe, where as shipping in top-loaded NeoTOP cartons cost three cents per syringe.
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