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Life Science Functional Labels Feature Sustainable Material Updates

At PACK EXPO, the expanded portfolio includes sustainability-minded hanging labels for infusion bottles from recycled materials (PE and PET) and labels for autoinjector pens from a proprietary renewable PP with FSC glassine paper.

The Pharma-Tac hanger label has continuously been extended by diverse variants and features and can now also be produced using environmentally friendly film material.
The Pharma-Tac hanger label has continuously been extended by diverse variants and features and can now also be produced using environmentally friendly film material.

Schreiner MediPharm debuted its sustainability-minded versions of two popular products at Pack Expo, October 23-26 in Chicago. There are, of course, a number of ways to define sustainability in life science packaging. The new offerings were designed with three key sustainability considerations:

  • Recycled/renewable materials
  • Sorted recycling/disassembling
  • CO2 emissions reduction

“The new label concepts are based on existing items in Schreiner MediPharm’s roster of functional labeling solutions,” says the company, using film materials that are either recycled or produced from renewable raw materials. On show were:

(1) A more sustainable version of its Pharma-Tac label for infusion bottles with integrated hanger and removable documentation parts. The concept label is produced from recycled materials (PE and PET), according to Christian Liebl, senior innovations and process manager for Schreiner MediPharm.

(2) An eco-friendlier version of their Autoinjector-Label–featuring its popular anti-slip functionality. Liebl explains, “The Autoinjector label is made out of a Schreiner MediPharm proprietary renewable PP, while the paper liner is made from FSC glassine paper. Those two concepts show that functional labels can be easily produced with recycled or renewable materials. We welcome any customer opportunity to produce unique test labels.”Autoinjectors are used for easy self-medication. The marking label made of environmentally friendly material can be equipped with individually combinable functions.Autoinjectors are used for easy self-medication. The marking label made of environmentally friendly material can be equipped with individually combinable functions.

Sorted recycling and disassembling

Sorting and disassembly have gained much focus recently when talking about the practicality of recycling vs. theoretical. While some medical packaging may not be able to result in reuse or recycling, more sustainable material choices can bake some sustainability in before the package’s end-of-life. “Sorted recycling is possible, if the label material and ‘body material’ (of a medical device) are identical. So, for instance, if the autoinjector shell is made out of PP and we place a PP based label on top, recycling is easy,” says Liebl. “The Pharma-Tac label consists of different polymer types to achieve the desired functionality, which makes recycling theoretically possible but in reality, rather difficult. As this delivery system is primarily designed for hospital-administered drugs and could come into contact with blood-borne pathogens, the whole container is considered biohazardous waste.”

Liebl goes on to add that as long as there are suitable materials available, Schreiner will work with customers to optimize their labeling solutions for easy recycling and disassembling. This could be done on a project basis to match individual customer requirements. 

“The disassembling consideration is independent from the chosen material type,” he says. “It is more a question of the design, to make disassembly feasible at all. After removing the label, for instance, the autoinjector half shells can be reused for new products. If you can feed the removed label to a controlled recycling process, overall sustainability increases further.”

Of course, sustainability is more than just using recycled and/or renewable materials. Liebl notes, “Schreiner MediPharm fosters sustainable actions and considers ecological factors in the development and production of our products. Accordingly, we expect sustainable actions and ethical behavior from our business partners as well.”

Performance and runnability 

Schreiner’s in-house R&D team conducted extensive tests to show that the updated materials perform as well/reliably as their conventional counterparts. “For example, the Pharma-Tac label was subjected to load and gravitational trials, and both the hanger label and Autoinjector-Label underwent testing for adhesion, ink adhesion, print durability and laser marking viability. All tests were passed flawlessly,” says Liebl.

He says a key feature of their renewable and recycled constructions is that they should run on any existing equipment that can process the conventional label version. Liebl recommends confirming suitability during a validation run and notes that Schreiner is happy to join the trial with on-site technical personnel if desired.

The company reports that a Product Carbon Footprint (PFC) was calculated for each of the new sustainable label concepts. This calculation considers the CO2 emissions of a product from raw materials through manufacturing to delivery–referred to as “cradle-to-gate” analysis – as well as end-of-life scenarios, or so-called “cradle-to-grave” impact. Using the materials that have been qualified, Schreiner MediPharm is able to design and develop customized labeling systems that can help companies adapt to more sustainable supply chains.

“The healthcare industry faces steeper challenges to sustainability than the vast majority of other sectors, since the safety of patients and efficacy of drugs must take priority on a more mission-critical scale,” said Gene Dul, president of Schreiner MediPharm US. “The sustainability-minded labels [we’re] showing at Pack Expo exemplify our commitment to reducing the environmental impact without sacrificing patient-centricity in the slightest. It’s an important step toward a more circular healthcare economy.”

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