Sustainability: Packaging suppliers step up

Daphne Allen

December 14, 2015

5 Min Read
Sustainability: Packaging suppliers step up

"Sustainability has become an important issue for many pharmaceutical companies," says Gene Dul, President Schreiner MediPharm L.P. "Sustainable product design considers all the lifecycles of a product, from production to the use of the product and all the way to disposal or recycling. In general, it is crucial that all stakeholders are committed to sustainability, i.e. customers, employees, shareholders, business partners and suppliers as well as the social environment. Only if all stakeholders that are directly or indirectly involved are convinced of the necessity and benefit of sustainability efforts, they fully support the processes involved."

"More than half of our pharmaceutical clients have inquired about, or require, sustainability programs," reports Kevin Kenjarski, vice president of sales, Keller Crescent Co. "We are also receiving more requests for recycled board grades from many of our clients. This high level of interest has prompted us to include details about our commitment to sustainability in presentations to new and potential clients."

“What has changed is that so many more companies are embracing sustainability,” says Patty Enneking of Klöckner Pentaplast. “So many more are concerned about improving their packaging environmentally.”

Customer requests have varied. Klöckner Pentaplast has developed initial sustainability platforms for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, which entails building an environmental footprint of their packaging processes. In addition, “we have done quite a bit of modeling for material comparisons to offer suggestions for downgauging,” she explains.

In terms of packaging design, Keller Crescent reduces "the waste in carton size by re-engineering to a smaller carton with less air space" and has increased its "use of petroleum-free and soy-based inks to decrease the environmental impact of its packaging," explains Kenjarski. It also uses a "reusable shipping tote, which eliminates corrugated ship cases and wooden pallets.

When it comes to enacting a sustainability program for packaging and related processes, it is all about continuous improvement, reports Gerald Rebitzer, sustainability leader for Amcor Flexibles Europe & Americas (Switzerland). "It involves measuring what you do and setting new targets."

Amcor helped Procter & Gamble do just that when it participated in the development of P&G’s Supplier Environmental Sustainability Scorecard. According to P&G, "The new scorecard will assess P&G suppliers’ environmental footprint and encourage continued improvement by measuring energy use, water use, waste disposal, and greenhouse gas emissions on a year-to-year basis." P&G presented the scorecard system in May as a potential "foundation for an industry standard" that could be used "by any organization to help promote a working discussion and determine common supply chain evaluation processes across all industries," the company describes on its site. P&G worked with more than 20 leading supplier representatives from its global supply chain, using measurement standards in protocols from the World Resources Institute, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Amcor has been working to improve its own environmental footprint in terms of internal processes, such as reducing green house gas emissions, water consumption, and waste reduction. The firm is also optimizing the footprints of its products, looking at alternative materials, design, and processes.

Keller Crescent’s six manufacturing facilities recycle paperboard waste from the conversion process back to the board mills, Kenjarski reports. And at the corporate level as a member of the Clondalkin Group, Keller Crescent "is charged to be ever mindful of the impact its processes have on the environment," he adds.

Schreiner's production sites in Germany have been certified according to ISO 14001 since 1997 and the U.S. site, Schreiner MediPharm L.P. which was set up in 2008 has been successfully audited and certified since October 2009. Says Dul: "Sustainability covers a lot of aspects of course, but to mention only a few examples: Raw, auxiliary, and operating materials comply with stringent statutory as well as customer requirements. Avoidance of waste materials plays a major role as well, since careful use of raw materials avoids pollution, conserves resources, and reduces costs. Product development and production is aligned with eco- and OHS-conformant aspects. Sustainable product design considers all the lifecycles of a product, from production to the use of the product and all the way to disposal or recycling."

Anderson Packaging’s Lean Six Sigma program and Continuous Improvement efforts have had susbstantial impacts on reducing waste including energy usage and waste disposal as well as increasing batch yields that ultimately reduce its environmental footprint, reports Justin Schroeder, director, marketing & business development.

Neopac, too, has begun its preparation for the critical ISO 14001 certification. "Our ISO 14001 certification is planned for May 2011 and we have just designated an Environmental Manager in-house to spearhead this effort," reports Richard Misdom, Sales Manager, Neopac. "More and more customers are asking for 'green tubes.'  So we continue to develop new ways to make our products more ‘green-friendly.' In building our own sustainability programs, we’ve found it difficult to determine what the market really needs/wants because there are so many different ways to approach sustainability. I think the most important thing is to participate in as many discussion as you can to educate yourself on the different options available and the many different ways you can make not only your products, but also your organization, more sustainable. Participate in roundtables and webinars, so that you can best figure out what’s right for your business."

The pharmaceutical and medical device industries are conservative, though, so instituting new "greener" materials could be a bit unsettling. "The food industry thought that compostable films would be the route to take, but it didn’t want to reduce shelf life, so it got complicated. So there is no silver bullet," says Rebitzer. "Especially for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry."

About the Author(s)

Daphne Allen

Daphne Allen is editor-in-chief of Design News. She previously served as editor-in-chief of MD+DI and of Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News and also served as an editor for Packaging Digest. Daphne has covered design, manufacturing, materials, packaging, labeling, and regulatory issues for more than 20 years. She has also presented on these topics in several webinars and conferences, most recently discussing design and engineering trends at IME West 2024 and leading an Industry ShopTalk discussion during the show on artificial intelligence.

Follow Daphne on X at @daphneallen and reach her at [email protected].

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