Publications, Pharmaceutical

Consumer Driven Path to Circularity and Future Pharmaceutical Packaging

Companies are changing the way they operate to align with the increasingly important global agenda towards increased circularity, and the pharmaceutical packaging industry is no exception. Consumers are also demanding an increase in circularity in the products they purchase, and it impacts their buying decisions.

But for primary pharmaceutical packaging suppliers, the additional challenges posed by the highly regulated industry are uniquely constraining. They need to find the right balance between developing manufacturable products, that can meet consumer demand for increased sustainability, all within the regulatory requirements.

Download Consumer Driven Path to Circularity and Future Pharmaceutical Packaging Publication
Author(s): Dr. Stefan Hellbardt Julien Storz
17 Oct 2023

Because plastic provides many desirable properties that allow them to protect, transport and deliver drug products, they represent the majority of packaging systems. Plastic use will continue to grow, which will make pharmaceutical plastic packaging recyclability a big priority for the industry along with incoming regulations. A circular economy will benefit from a combination of reduced plastic consumption and the enhanced recyclability of plastic packaging. This can lead to an improved quality of recyclate that will be available in quantities that can make their use viable for even highly regulated pharmaceutical packaging applications.

The EU has published draft regulations which will become binding law for primary pharmaceutical packaging by 2035. The new regulations will require that pharmaceutical packaging must offer a minimum recyclability performance of 70%, although this measurement has not yet been clearly defined. In addition, recycling system capabilities vary significantly by region which can result in differences in what can be recycled and how reliably it can be recycled. Primary packaging manufacturers need to consider not only the recyclability of the device itself but also the recycling systems that will be tasked with recycling them. Some of these differences are reflected in the standardized recyclability ratings calculated by independent rating organizations like cyclos-HTP.

Aptar has created the Futurity™ brand to encompass many of the initiatives that help it to achieve its strategically designed sustainability objectives. These initiatives include designing new packaging systems for enhanced recyclability, reducing the CO2 footprint, and using alternative materials such as renewable feedstocks as a bio-based alternative to fossil-based plastics. Futurity™ incorporates products such as Aptar Pharma’s Proventu mono-material closure for dermal tubes, multidose Ophthalmic Squeeze Dispenser (OSD), Airless+ semi-solid delivery systems and Bag on Valve (BOV) Technologies. We also help customers transition to lower global warming potential (GMP) propellants for their pressurized metered dose inhaler (pMDI) technology.

Aptar Pharma has developed a metal free, highly recyclable nasal spray pump system call the Advanced Preservative Free (APF)  Futurity™. It was designed to enable the recycling of nasal spray pumps used to administer nasal saline or comparable OTC formulations. Made of only polyolefin materials the advanced design, eliminates recycling disruptors such as metals, which greatly simplifies the recycling process for the consumer. According to Aptar Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) calculations, the design reduces the CO2 footprint by almost 45% and received a highly recyclable AA rating from independent rating organization cyclos-HTP.

The latest addition to the Futurity™ family is Aptar’s Micro+  Futurity™ semi-solid dispensing system. This new monomaterial drug delivery system is constructed only of medical grade polyethylene (PE) and delivers efficient drug dispensing to consumers. This results in the Micro+  Futurity™ receiving a “completely recyclable” or “AAA+” rating with 100% recyclable content from cyclos-HTP. The efficient dispensing function also allows the user to empty virtually every drop of the valuable drug product from the Micro+  Futurity™ before placing it directly into a plastic recycling stream, all without the requirement for any further separation steps.

Even though the pharmaceutical packaging industry faces difficult challenges ahead in its quest for enhanced circularity and recyclability, it has already started a multifaceted approach that considers materials science, engineering, and regulatory requirements as well as the real world impacts of recycling systems, to successfully design primary packaging towards this goal. With independent recyclability ratings organizations providing independent assessment of the relative success of individual packaging systems for recyclability, the primary packaging industry is taking a more holistic approach to device designs that consider enhanced circularity. Aptar Pharma is ready to take a lead position with its Futurity™ portfolio of products and services.

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