PLA a Prescription for Sustainable Healthcare Packaging

Innovative Bottles’ pill vial and specimen packaging relies on TotalEnergies Corbion’s Luminy PLA biopolymer as a healthier choice for the environment.

Rick Lingle, Senior Technical Editor

May 16, 2024

3 Min Read
PLA vials from Innovative Bottle
TotalEnergies Corbion

At a Glance

  • Innovative Bottle’s healthcare packaging uses PLA from TotalEnergies Corbion.
  • Bioplastic vials and medical containers reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Industrial composting option is an alternative to landfilling of single-use plastics.

Rare is the market that can’t benefit from a sustainable packaging improvement and that includes unexpected applications in healthcare.

Exemplary of that effort is Innovative Bottles, which has pioneered a range of biopolymer vials and specialized medical packaging. The company’s products offer environmental benefits by replacing fossil-fuel based polymers with polylactic acid (PLA). Its two flagship products are ECOVial brand PLA vials for pharmaceutical and veterinary markets and specimen containers for medical. These products present an industrial composting option that can help customers lower single-use plastic waste.

Bio-based packaging is an on-trend offering, according to Joseph Salerno, CEO. "By combining innovative technology with renewable materials, we are addressing the urgent need for sustainability in the healthcare sector and paving the way for a greener future.”

The market has responded favorably to bioplastic packaging.

“Our packaging complements today’s sustainability programs that [are] flourishing,” Salerno notes. “Our patented design has all the form, fit, and functionality of plastic without its eco-destructiveness. Our products are [better] for the environment — reduction of [conventional] plastic is one of the signature environmental initiatives of our time.”

The PLA vials are available in six sizes and four colors, amber, green, blue, and black. He tells us black is a popular choice for cannabis.

The clear sterile specimen container, used for urine or blood samples and shown below, is 3.5 ounce/110 cc and is marked in 10 mL increments. The leak-proof, screw-on lid is also made of plant-based material.

Asked about costs versus standard plastic packaging, Salerno responds that “the vials and specimen containers are a high-end products that are near cost parity with similar high-end petroleum-based products.”

He defines “high end” as domestic products versus cheap but low-quality packaging imported from China.

PLA lowers energy use and carbon emissions.

Salerno sees PLA’s primary benefit as fossil-fuel reduction, but there are other advantages as well.  “For example, we use 32% less energy in production and emit 42% less greenhouse emissions, which lowers the carbon footprint.”

That’s a strong business case for sustainably minded companies to consider a bioplastic alternative; even if landfilled as all conventional plastic vials and specimen containers are, that environmental advantage is already built-in to PLA packaging.

TotalEnergies-Corbion-Specimen-Bottles.png

Some months back the Cerritos, CA, company was compelled to change PLA vendors when the prior supplier discontinued a grade of PLA. NatureWorks referred the company to TotalEnergies Corbion, which produces Luminy brand PLA. Salerno attended NPE2024 the week of May 6 and visited the TotalEnergies booth where Innovative Bottle’s PLA packaging was displayed.

PLA drives healthy growth and opportunities.

The company’s market reach starts in the US and spreads across the globe. And it’s growing.

“Our line of eco-friendly prescription vials and single-use specimen containers are available in the US and across the globe,” Salerno says. “We have an international customer in The Bermuda Diabetes Association and are selling in England via KVP International.”

Appropriately, business is healthy across all markets.

“KVP International has been aggressively promoting and selling our products to customers in the veterinary sector as we continue to make penetration into pharmaceuticals,” says Salerno. “US Plastic, Premium Vials, Inc., and Value Drug have recently come on board, and our products are on their websites. We are also on Medline.”

Salerno has an eye on one market that holds compostable promise.

“Specimen containers are an especially exciting market because they never leave the customer facility, leading to a closed-loop process and zero-waste opportunity,” he suggests.

If there’s one thing that’s lacking, it’s downstream where more infrastructure would be welcome.

“The backend of collection and industrial composting is still maturing,” Salerno admits, “but there are 4,700 industrial composting sites across the US, albeit each does different things.”

About the Author(s)

Rick Lingle

Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday

Rick Lingle is Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree from Clarke College and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-408-7184.

https://twitter.com/PackmanRick[email protected]

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