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Sustainability in medical device packaging

Designers may carry the burden of developing ‘greener’ medical devices and packaging to help offset hospital waste and increased environmental concerns.

Pw 3961 Istock Medical Waste 1

Maintaining a sterile barrier from manufacturing through the last mile to the patient is and will remain a top priority for medical device makers. But ready or not, sustainability is becoming a more significant factor.

Nurses at HealthPack 2010 recently expressed growing interest in more environmentally friendly packaging, even though their hospital recycling/recovery efforts were often limited in size and scope.

Device manufacturers have their hands full with regulatory matters and cost concerns, as is pointed out in a recent article in The NACFAM (National Council for Advanced Manufacturing) Weekly. The article says, “Seeking to spur change, some suppliers to the industry are paving the way for a sustainable switch in material as they begin to offer eco-friendly options for plastic medical applications.”

Specifically, NACFAM refers to the use of recycled polyethylene terepthalate (RPET) for secondary medical packaging, “where the primary package is responsible for ensuring sterility.” The article also talks about increasing regulation and directives from the current administration to push the purchase of bioplastics and bio-based materials for medical and dental applications.

The Energy Tough Love Blog, meanwhile, points out, “The eco-friendliness drive is accelerating in the medical products industry, but the road to ‘green’ is marked with many potholes,” including the increased use of disposable products that are contributing to hospital waste.

The Blog quotes Laura Brannen, co-director of Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E)/Practice Greenhealth, as saying, “H2E hopes to provide the framework and initiate discussions on how the industry can create processes and infrastructure that develop take-back programs, or products and packaging that are stackable and returnable…H2E is also pursuing partnerships between manufacturers and distributors to establish methods that let distributors back-haul plastics to the manufacturer or plastic recyclers. The group’s ultimate goal is reaching medical device designers so products have a minimal environmental impact.” –Jim Butschli, Editor, Healthcare Packaging

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