THOUGHTS

Preparing Medical Packaging for the Circular Economy

Dec 10, 2019

Healthcare facilities usually generate about one million tons of clean, non-infectious healthcare plastics every year. This necessitates healthcare providers to find a way to minimize the waste stream and its consequent impact on the environment. Although challenging, a comparatively easy way for healthcare companies to achieve this is through design innovation, process improvement, and material optimization for medical packaging.

Furthermore, an increasing number of OEMs are expecting their partners to become environmentally responsible. Medical OEMs bidding for contracts must support responsible sourcing decisions, packaging recyclability, and identify the use of recycled materials in primary packaging. Some of the top medical device packaging companies are already aligning their operations to this agenda by increasing the emphasis on the sustainability of their products. In this article, we have listed some ways in which companies in the medical industry can drive sustainability in their operations.

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Collaboration to develop circular economy products

Collaborating with a packaging partner at the earlier stages of the production process itself will help create innovative packaging that is both sustainable as well as serves the purpose of medical packaging. Designers in the medical packaging industry have already started working on ‘green designs’ that aim to reduce the energy use and materials required for production. Tools like design and package integrity simulation allow medical packaging companies to decide in the concept stage itself about the choice of design and how it will impact the performance of the package. This gives more confidence to packaging companies to go ahead with the prototyping and manufacturing stages.

Cost-saving transportation and logistics

Waste minimization in the medical industry can not only be achieved by rethinking the packaging materials but also through planning the transportation costs and controlling CO2 emissions. Simulation tools can help medical packaging companies to lower their transportation and logistics costs. By adopting strategies such as bulk freight shipment, medical packaging companies can reduce the impact of packaging on the environment and thereby reduces the transportation or inventory cost incurred by the company.

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Education and training on recycling programs

With the increased awareness around sustainability in packaging, there is a need for education and training programs to create awareness on reusing and recycling. Several packaging manufacturers are working with medical device OEMs to recover more plastic and divert it back into the circular economy. The rising concern over the environment necessitates medical packaging manufacturers to perform detailed assessments of healthcare plastics use through pilot programs and establish an appropriate recycling process for clinical settings.

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