Amcor: 8 Trends and Innovations in Sustainable Pharmaceutical Packaging

Pharmaceutical packaging meets some of the toughest and most complex requirements: safety, compliance, usability, product integrity, and more. However, until recent years, sustainability was a lower priority.

This proves problematic in an industry that emits around 55% more greenhouse gases of carbon dioxide (CO2) than the automotive sector.1 In addition, companies and consumers are sensitive to the ecological crisis and are proactive in making choices that help preserve the planet.

Packaging contributes minimally to the industry’s overall CO2 emissions. However, the pharmaceutical industry is committed to sustainability and finding holistic solutions that support a circular economy. To this end, suppliers are responsible for innovating in environmentally friendly packaging. Design and engineering possibilities are informed by the following trends, and environmentally friendly blister packaging solutions such as the AmSky™ Blister System exemplify the ready-to-recycle future of pharmaceutical packaging.

More choices in sustainable packaging materials

One of the key sustainability guidelines for reducing and eliminating plastic waste issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) requires manufacturers to make packaging as recyclable as possible.2 Materials continue to evolve into broader sustainable options, including:

  1. Biodegradable substrates which can be broken down naturally by micro-organisms and re-assimilated into the environment without stressing it or leaving residual materials to decompose in landfills and emit harmful carbon dioxide.

  2. Bio-derived plastics which are made from renewable agricultural sources instead of those synthesized from fossil fuels.

  3. Recycled materials which can repeatedly move into recycling streams instead of being disposed of as waste, reducing carbon footprint and promoting a circular economy. Recyclable plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are popular choices for packaging.

  4. Monomaterial constructions which use only one sustainable material for the entire packaging, thus making it fully recyclable and also reducing energy consumption during production processes.

Design Considerations That Influence Packaging Decisions

Sustainable materials guide pharmaceutical packaging design, but trends suggest that materials aren’t the only consideration:

  1. Correct sizing: Designing to an accurate package size offers a host of benefits including maximum product protection, minimal waste and a significantly reduced carbon footprint as excess materials are not brought into production.

  2. Medication compliance and ease of use: Ensuring medications are taken on time and as planned helps produce the best outcomes for patients. Since many of these drugs are self-administered, packaging concepts that promote proper dosing and usage are imperative. Likewise, the design of the package should allow the elderly to easily access the medicine while providing childproof protections.

  3. Inviolability: Whether traditional or sustainable solutions, packaging that provides peace of mind is important to end users – their health and safety depend on it. Design trends are incorporating more tamper evidence into packaging systems. Blister packs have tamper evident evidence largely built into the design, as drugs usually have to be pushed out of the pack, by physically breaking the lid of the pack.

  4. AmSky™ blister system: AmSky™, the first of its kind made from recyclable HDPE, is Amcor’s revolutionary thermoformed plastic blister packaging system that provides pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare manufacturers with durable, low-carbon, ready-to-use packaging. recycle which is:
  • Made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and contains no vinyl or aluminum, making it ready for recycling in PE film and rigid HDPE recycling streams

  • In line with the EU strategy for plastics in a circular economy

  • Recognized by the Association of Plastics Recyclers as recyclable in the polyethylene film stream through Critical Council Recognition

  • Produced using fewer natural resources, reducing the carbon footprint of the packaging by up to 70% compared to PVC/Alu solutions taking into account 100% recyclability at end of life

  • Compatible with existing packaging equipment

AmSky™ is designed for a circular economy as it combines basic design requirements with end-of-life considerations and innovation:

A fresh perspective on your current pharmaceutical packaging

The AmSky™ Blister System has significantly advanced sustainable pharmaceutical packaging and positions the industry to positively contribute to – and shape – the circular economy.

Is your current pharmaceutical packaging eco-responsible? Can different choices be made to improve sustainability? What solutions are available to promote a greener world?

These are all important questions to ask, especially when you can leverage a global network of experienced pharmaceutical packaging professionals for reliable answers and solutions. Contact Amcor to discuss how we can help you with sustainable and fashionable pharmaceutical packaging.

1Forbes, How green is Big Pharma?December 3, 2021, How is sustainability integrated into pharmaceutical packaging?February 9, 2021