For the last ten years, I have had the privilege of guest lecturing at Michigan State University’s School of Packaging. Every semester I get to meet a new group of students and provide education on the healthcare packaging industry in their Packaging 102: Packaging Seminar class. Recently, I reflected on a trend that has been reoccurring over the last few years. Not a single lecture ends without a student asking about sustainability initiatives and how our industry is supporting this important topic. Lately, this has made me realize that the changemakers are coming!
Some may say the changemakers are already here. I have experienced countless conversations with people across industry and along the value chain who are working tirelessly on innovative technologies, processes and ideas to address the big, wicked problem of sustainability. How do we reduce waste, develop more sustainable materials and drive circularity within this complex, heavily regulated industry where patient safety is the number one priority? Is it possible to have both patient safety AND sustainability? I say yes! If we have people in this industry who can design, develop and launch a device to replace a heart valve through a vein in your leg, we can figure out how to drive sustainability within healthcare packaging. This industry is FULL of talented people with fresh, innovative ideas.
With legislation happening all around the world to drive more sustainable products, our global healthcare manufacturers are starting to recognize their responsibility and opportunity to help solve the problem. If you haven’t heard of extended producer responsibility, take a look here to educate yourself on what is happening across the globe. Many people are passionate about sustainability because they are committed to leaving the earth better than they found it. Others are passionate about leading successful businesses while maximizing profits and preventing taxes paid for non-recyclable plastic waste. Some have a passion for both! Whatever the driver, Global MDM’s are assembling sustainability task forces and teams in packaging to developing goals and procedures that will drive us in the right direction.
If you are passionate about driving sustainability in healthcare packaging, there are multiple industry groups tackling this effort who welcome additional participants. Two groups that are the most prominent are HPRC (Healthcare Packaging Recycling Council) and KiiP (Kilmer Innovations in Packaging). While both groups are focused on sustainability, they are tackling it from two different angles. HPRC is focused on the recycling aspect of sustainability. i.e the process for recycling, recycling infrastructure and technology, etc… KiiP is focused on the upstream innovation in sustainability. i.e. advanced recycled materials and the barriers to entry.
Sustainability is no longer a trend; it is here to stay. Let’s work together to develop innovative materials, technologies and processes while removing barriers and keeping patient safety as our top priority.