Plastic Alternatives for Pharmaceutical Packaging

Pharma Tech Outlook: Pharma Tech Magazine

Plastic Alternatives for Pharmaceutical Packaging

Stacey Smith, Pharma Tech Outlook | Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The advantage of sugarcane-based method of plastic production is that it is biodegradable, with preliminary tests suggesting that it will decompose within a decade.

FREMONT, CA: Over the last few years, the development of sustainable packaging for pharmaceutical items has become increasingly significant. Scientists have begun developing alternative materials to decrease the use of plastic across the whole supply chain as the need to cut plastic use and lower carbon footprints across industries grow.

Alternatives to plastic in pharmaceutical packaging are actively being developed include:

Plastic Made from Sugar Cane

Several packaging companies have created or are working on developing sugarcane-based plastic. The advantage of this method of plastic production is that it is biodegradable, with preliminary tests suggesting that it will decompose within a decade. This is a significant benefit over traditional plastic, which takes hundreds of years to dissolve and stays in the form of small particles known as microplastics that poison our seas and food chain even after it is thought to have decayed.

The pharmaceutical sector is ready to use this new sugarcane-based plastic. By combining a biodegradable plastic ingredient with sugarcane, one firm has successfully developed this form of entirely biodegradable plastic packaging. Sugarcane has shown to be a valuable supply for CO2 neutral and recyclable packaging, as proved by the company's product. According to tests, the sugarcane product is comparable in strength to traditional petroleum plastic, implying that the benefits of plastic do not have to be sacrificed when converting to eco-friendly resources. Microbes may easily enter and break down the material by secreting acids that destroy the plastic, which is the key to its biodegradability. This permits the material to degrade over ten years rather than hundreds of years.

Post-Consumer Grind

Another environmentally friendly plastic is Post-Consumer Regrind (PCR), which is a viable alternative to virgin PE materials. Using PCR instead of fresh new plastic saves energy and reduces waste.

Polylactic Acid      

PLA, or polylactic acid, is made from renewable sources such as corn starch, sugarcane, and cassava. These materials can be used to make plastic rather easily. Corn kernels, for example, are broken down into starch, protein, and fiber components after being combined with sulfur dioxide and hot water. While PLA is a potential material for sustainable pharmaceutical packaging, it currently has some drawbacks, which are being addressed through continuous research.

See Also: Top Pharma Logistics Solution Companies

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