Suppliers Push Medical OEMs Toward Eco-Friendly Plastics

by | Mar 12, 2010

BrookdaleMedPkgThe medical device industry has been slow to incorporate biodegradable, bio-based or recycled plastics in their designs primarily due to cost, regulatory concerns, minimal selection and a lack of strong demand from end users, reports Medical Product Manufacturing News. But some suppliers like Cereplast, Brookdale Plastics and Placon are hoping to change the trend by offering more eco-friendly options for plastic medical devices and packaging.

Polylactic acid (PLA) accounted for almost 90 percent of bioplastics demand in 2008, according to a study from the Freedonia Group, reports Medical Product Manufacturing News. PLA, made from starches such as corn or sugar, is one of the few bioplastics that has found homes in medical products such as drug-delivery applications and bioresorbable implants.

According to BCC research in 2008, the market for biodegradable plastics reached 541 million pounds in 2007, and will reach 1.2 billion pounds by 2012.

Some medical manufacturers are already making the switch to organic-based materials. Abbott, for example, started a pilot program last year that replaced a larger single-use box with a smaller one that is resusable, recyclable and made from 100-percent organic-based materials for shipment of some physician samples that require refrigeration.

Frederic Scheer, founder, chairman, and CEO of resin manufacturer Cereplast told Medical Product Manufacturing News that bioplastics could be a viable alternative for single-use plastic products and disposable medical packaging.

Cereplast produces hybrid plastic resins made from traditional polyolefins that consist of up to 50 percent renewable content, such as starch-based plastics from corn, potatoes, rice, and tapioca. Scheer also said in the article that the FDA-approved material features thermal and physical properties comparable to petroleum-based resins, and although it hasn’t been used in a medical product, it has replaced polypropylene in several dental applications.

Meanwhile, medical packaging manufacturers are focusing their efforts on offseting the impact of their plastic products. As an example, Brookdale Plastics states that all plastic it receives either becomes packaging or is recycled.

Recycling is a key strategy for developing more sustainable packaging options, particularly in the reprocessing of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), reports Medical Product Manufacturing News. Recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) can be used in secondary medical packaging applications.

Optimizing its RPET for medical packaging, Placon launched the EcoStar PET family of products last year that includes clamshells, in-process trays, and glucose meter packaging. EcoStar PC50 products are composed of at least 50 percent post-consumer content and 85 percent total recycled content.

The pharmaceutical industry is also adopting greener practices, reports Packaging World.

The BrandInnovator’s blog provides three green tips for the pharmaceutical industry including using recycled paper for package inserts, eliminating oversized packaging to reduce materials use and costs, and using renewable energy sources on large corporate campuses.

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