The unit dose strip packaging foil was developed by the German processing equipment company Romaco, in collaboration with the Finish packaging company, Huhtamaki, “as a joint step towards more sustainable pharmaceutical packaging,” the companies stated.
For the packaging to be produced, Huhtamaki’s foil, which has a recyclable rate of more than 70%, is processed into four-sided sealed strips with a push-through function using Romaco’s heat-sealing technology.
According to Romaco, manufacture of the Push Packs has ‘inherent’ advantages compared to conventional blister packs, since it requires significantly less material consumption, lowering the cost by up to 60%.
Furthermore, the Push Pack foil has the same barrier properties as blister foil; however, it is thinner and lighter, with its small cavities enabling longer shelf life for the drug product, according to the company.
After use, the consumer can dispose the packaging with other recyclable waste and the material should return to the production chain, after waste separation and reprocessing.
Push Packs can be produced in various geometries and designs, while the foil can be printed on both sides. The heat-sealing machinery used for the Push Packs can pack up to 7,000 tablets per minute.
The packaging is currently in development with the company testing the product at its facilities in Karlsruhe, Germany, on behalf of an undisclosed, multinational pharmaceutical manufacturer, and has shown ‘very promising’ results so far, according to Rolf Izsak, product manager at Romaco.
Izsak told us that the interest in sustainable forms of packaging has grown strongly during the past few years, and that the market response ahead of the Push Packs’ launch has been ‘significant’.
However, the company’s executive noted that “innovation requires time and tenacity,” adding that “it will surely take a while until the first drug is approved for recyclable Push Packs by the state drug authorities.”
A pressure to act
Asked about why the industry has not seen more sustainable and eco-friendly solutions like this so far, despite the rise of environmental awareness across several industries, Izsak replied that “there was never a pressure to act.”
“When it comes to pharmaceutical products, the safety of the patients is the main priority. For this reason, sustainability legitimately plays a subordinate role at this point,” he said.
“Seen from another perspective, we currently experience a strong consensus that the protection of the environment is more important than the careless, 'throw-away mentality’ of consumers worldwide,” he added.
This consensus, according to Romaco’s executive, has put the spotlight on packaging and raised the interest to reduce the waste of it: “Consequently, as a packaging company, one of our first contributions to sustainability is to develop machines that either process recyclable foils or consume less aluminum foil to produce tight and safe pharmaceutical unit dose packaging.”
However, Izsak noted that this is ‘only a small step’ towards the sustainability direction and more are to follow, with the company currently planning its environmentally-friendly strategy across its tableting and powder business, since “it’s time for everyone to act”.