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Going Green: The latest sustainability trends in medical packaging

There is an estimated one million tons of clean, non-infectious healthcare plastic generated in healthcare facilities each year, accordingly to The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC). Finding a way to minimise the waste stream that ends up in landfills -- and the resulting impact it can have on the environment -- is challenging but important. One area where there is an opportunity to reduce waste through increased design innovation and process and material optimisation is in healthcare packaging.

Working with healthcare-focused packaging designers and engineers provides medical device companies with the ability to proactively innovate products even at the earliest stages of development. As a result, OEMs can have more efficient and environmentally responsible device packaging that reduces material waste during development and production; lowers packaging ownership costs; provides for optimum volume and efficient logistics in the supply chain; and allows for products that can be used and recycled more effectively in hospital environments.

https://www.med-technews.com/medtech-insights/going-green-the-latest-sustainability-trends-in-medical-pack/ (22 FEBRUARY 2019)

Usability, Sustainability Becoming More Relevant in Medtech Packaging

Usability is no longer limited strictly to user experience.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to issue a final federal rule this year limiting EO emissions from commercial medtech sterilization plants. Considered a carcinogen, EO has been used for decades to clean medical equipment—from plastic tubing and surgical instruments to hospital gowns and artificial joints. Industry experts estimate the chemical is used to sterilize roughly half of all medical equipment, as it can efficiently kill germs without harming materials.

Usability has come more to the forefront due to EU MDR changes, signifying the importance of packaging for successful patient outcomes. Usability often connotates user experience, but it is definitely not limited to only user experience. For the requirement in ISO 11607-1:2019, it is much more expansive. For instance, being able to demonstrate that a package has a clearly identifiable opening mechanism, is important. Another example is the requirement of being able to aseptically present the device once the package is opened—surely, how the user experiences this happening is one thing, but their ability to actually execute aseptic presentation may be something different altogether.

Sustainability—this can take on several meanings. On one hand, it means designing a packaging product that reduces or eliminates the risk of failure of medical devices at the point of use, which can have high penalties for high-risk procedures. Hence, packaging that can maintain a sterile barrier from manufacturing, transportation all the way through to point of use can significantly impact sustainability by reducing wastage. On the other hand, sustainability means ensuring the waste is utilized towards creating circularity in the system, reducing environmental footprint. A vast majority of non-hazardous plastic healthcare packaging waste currently ends up in municipal solid waste, because of the complexity in composition which makes recycling challenging and it’s important for the entire value chain to come together to address this issue.

https://www.odtmag.com/contents/view_online-exclusives/2021-04-07/usability-sustainability-becoming-more-relevant-in-medtech-packaging/ (04.07.21)

Thermoform Packaging Powered by Digital Watermarks

Covert markings for medical packaging enable vital benefits from factory floor through end-of-life recycling including consumer engagement, sustainability, and traceability.

Tomas Filler, senior manager, R&D at Digimarc, explains how the tech works.
“The TEQ Code is based on Digimarc Watermark technology, which has been used in the print environment for more than 20 years. The Digimarc Watermark is a slight texture that can be printed, engraved into a mold, or made directly onto the plastic that carries digital identifiers, such as the UPC-A code, or Digimarc ID. Digital watermarks are designed to be imperceptible for regular consumers or can be built-in existing textures used in customer artwork today. Machines equipped with camera and processing algorithms such as phones, barcode scanners, or other machine-vision cameras can then detect the presence of such watermark and connect the physical object with its digital twin in Digimarc Product Cloud.”

Meanwhile, TEQ found a technique that worked — laser engraving of the thermoform mold.

Options for customers start at the very beginning and extend to the type of plastic chosen for the thermoform. TEQ’s product portfolio numbers more than 25 different materials including polypropylene and polyethylene as well as the latest biodegradable and recycled plastics.

However, most medical product customers choose PETG, McDonald says.

Finally, at the thermoform’s end-of-life, a Holy Grail 2.0 watermark could enable the integration into automated sortation and recycling of the packaging for either standard mechanical recycling or an advanced recycling method such as depolymerization.

https://www.packagingdigest.com/medical-packaging/thermoform-packaging-powered-digital-watermarks (Aug 01, 2022)

How Do Recycled Materials Fit with Healthcare Packaging?

Quick hits:

• The EU packaging and packaging waste directive (PPWD) allows regulators to make implementing decisions
• Rules that will apply to other types of packaging won’t necessarily apply to medical and pharmaceutical packaging.
• Medical packages can become a good source for recycled material due to the high-quality polymers they are comprised of.
• Advanced recycling and internal pre-consumer recycling each have roles to supply in healthcare sustainability.

https://www.healthcarepackaging.com/TakeFive/video/21964895/life-science-packaging-not-ready-for-recycled-content-yet (Dec 24, 2021)

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