Pharma Packing and Reducing the Global Footprint

The pharmaceutical industry is under enormous pressure to make considerable changes in its global footprint.


Pharma Packing and Reducing the Global Footprint

With sustainability at the forefront of most people’s minds, the pharmaceutical industry is under enormous pressure to make considerable changes in its global footprint. Pharmaceutical products need a lot of packaging and as a result, we are re-evaluating our production to see where we can make changes to contribute positively to the environment. There are four types of pharma packing to consider.

Primary Packing

Primary pharma packaging, including vials, bottles, blister packs, sachets, syringes and ampoules, remains the most challenging to replace with an environmentally friendly option. The most common types of primary packaging use plastics, aluminium and glass to ensure that products remain safe, compliant and protected.

Secondary Packing

Predominantly made from paper and carton board, secondary pharma packaging’s main job is to protect primary packaging. It also plays a role in brand exposure and sometimes when creating retail displays. Paper and carton board are recyclable, but internal packing and protection can be made from plastics.

Tertiary Packing

Tertiary pharma packaging’s role is to protect secondary packaging during transport. As with secondary packaging, tertiary packaging is mostly made using paper, carton and corrugated board but internal packing can be made using plastics.

Ancillary Packing

Ancillary packaging materials are used to seal and secure tertiary packaging. They include elements such as adhesive tape, banding and shrink wrap, all of which are made using plastics. However, paper-based materials are becoming increasingly available.

The Challenge for Pharma Packing

Patient and consumer safety is paramount, therefore pharma products and ingredients must be protected and safety compliant – this limits pharma packing companies in how green they can be, as alternatives to plastic often don’t offer the same level of protection and stability for products.

Current pharma packaging materials are not environmentally friendly. There are greener materials available, but they are not as effective and can pose a threat to the environment and public health when sent to landfill.

Biodegradable plastics, made from plants such as sugarcane, are becoming a popular replacement for traditional plastics. Bioplastics are broken down by microbes over a period of years, but most are not compostable at home and need to be industrially broken down.

A real problem for bioplastics that end up in landfill is that any medicines left in the packaging will, over time, be released as the bioplastic breaks down, potentially contaminating waterways and ultimately entering the food chain.

Blister packaging is one of the most common type of pharma packaging as it’s very widely used to pack tablets and capsules. Blister packs rely heavily on PVC, identified by WRAP as a problem plastic. Its eradication from landfill is a priority for the Plastics Pact, which targets 2025 for making 100% of blister packaging recyclable.

With patient/consumer safety and compliance a priority, at the moment a fully sustainable model for pharma packing is not possible, but we aim to change that.

Central Pharma’s Sustainable Solution – An In-house Recycle Plant

We are bucking the trend in not only offering sustainable packaging solutions where possible to customers upon request but we have also been approved to operate an in-house recycle plant.

Creating a circular ecosystem that collects waste blister packaging enables the infinite recycling of materials into new blister packs. Our in-house recycle plant will use established electrostatic separation technology to create a low-cost, low-energy recycling process.

The process is both carbon and energy positive compared to the use of virgin materials for production while saving millions of tonnes of PVC, aluminium and discarded medicines from landfill.

Our recycle programme for blister packaging aims to create a closed-loop, meaning that blister packs will have 100% recycled content once we can collect enough used packaging to cover our material needs, with the programme making significant progress towards the Plastics Pact targets for 2025.

Our aim is to go further still, with consumers returning used blister packaging to shops, pharmacies, GP surgeries and hospitals, and that doing so will quickly become second nature once the necessary collection infrastructure is in place, enabling recycling rates significantly above 50%.

Final Thought

Our lead on creating a pharma packing recycling ecosystem will not only encourage recycling amongst consumers but will also help to incentivise other filling and packing companies to follow suit.  

This will help to make pharma packing more sustainable by reducing the impact that packaging products have on the environment in landfill and by significantly reducing the reliance on virgin production materials. Why not speak to one of our experts today to find out more about what we do and how we could become your company’s greener filling and packing partner?

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Central Pharma set to buck the trend in pharma packaging with grant approved for in-house recycle plant

Central Pharma's recycling programme creates a more circular plastic packaging value chain, creating a viable blister pack recycling process for the first time.

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