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Sustainable Solutions for Medical Packaging

August 11, 2022
 

How to Practice Sustainability with Restrictions

By Catherine Haub

Plastics play an important role in the medical industry, especially since the invention of blister packaging back in the 60s. It can be found in many major medical devices such as prosthetics, portable medical devices, hearing aids, and so much more due to its versatility [1]. Without plastic, just like with other industries, we wouldn’t have been able to invent some of the life-saving technology we have today. Plastic is also important for packaging these medical devices as it keeps them cleaned and protected from contaminants [1]. Protection is imperative as medical equipment needs to be clean and sterile to protect patients. Plastic is also unbreakable, so products are safe during transport [2]. Though plastics are very beneficial, an issue is that all plastic for the medical field has to be brand new virgin material to ensure that the packaging for the products is clean and sterile. In certain situations, even though PETG medical packaging is recyclable, it can’t be when it becomes contaminated and has to go in the biohazard bin. Since using recycled plastic is out of the picture and only certain products can be recycled, finding ways to make medical plastic a sustainable option is more complicated than in other industries. Companies should look more towards sustainable operations if their packaging falls short in that area. 

Utilizing sustainable operations is key for creating medical packaging since recycled content is not safe.

  1. Lightweight: plastic is a very lightweight material compared to its alternatives, which is convenient for many reasons, but a big one is for transportation. Since plastic is much lighter, it doesn’t take as much fuel to transport them due to less weight on the truck, lessening the number of fossil fuels burned and greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.
  2. Using renewable energy: just like in other industries, plastic companies can look more towards using renewable energy in their production, like wind or solar power. While it wouldn’t completely offset the energy used to create the plastic, the divide wouldn’t be as grand.
  3. Eliminating waste wherever possible: by reducing the amount of packaging, we eliminate waste in the process. For example, some of our customers use a single sterile barrier instead of a double, needing less plastic for the packaging. Other customers use our already existing tray sizes for their products instead of making custom ones, so no new trays need to be made. With our Bargergard pouch, nine tools can be packaged instead of just one, so each item doesn’t need its own packaging. We also made the Bargergard pouch as simple as possible to reduce waste as much as possible while still creating an effective product.
  4. Recycling PETG: though some medical plastic packaging cannot be recycled uncontaminated PETG can! At our recycling facility, we can take in uncontaminated PETG and turn that back into new food and retail packaging, which can be recycled again and again. By recycling PETG, we can ensure that all recyclable material goes where it belongs. 

Here at Placon, we focus on sustainability wherever we can in our packaging, especially in the medical industry where we have to be much more creative due to regulations. We are very transparent with our customers and work with them to find ways to live up to their environmental standards.

Resources:

[1] This Is Plastics: Why Is Medical Plastic Packaging So Essential?

[2] Medical Grade Plastics — 7 Advantages Of Plastics Used In Medical Devices | A&C Plastics (acplasticsinc.com)

ABOUT PLACON
For 55 years, Placon has been a leading designer and manufacturer of custom and stock plastic packaging for the food, medical, and retail markets. Placon has manufacturing operations in Madison, WI; Elkhart, IN; Plymouth, MN; and West Springfield, MA, and currently ranked in Plastics News 2020 Thermoformers Ranking Top 20. Placon delivers packaging breakthroughs that inspire better engagement between people and products with industry leading innovation and award-winning packaging designs. For more information, visit www.placon.com.