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Medical packaging is moving from single-use plastic to fibre-based alternatives. Discover who’s leading the way in the shift to sustainability.

At the moment, every day seems to deliver another story or press release about a product replacing its single-use plastic packaging with more sustainable materials. Crisps, fruit, meat, bottles, margarine, even Pot Noodles has swapped its iconic white plastic tub for a fibre-based alternative.

Now, while food and drink brands continue their drive to cut down their single-use plastic use, attention is turning to the medical sector and the thousands of tonnes of packaging it uses around the world every year.

Everyone is aware of the medical blister pack – the moulded white plastic that securely holds tablets of all shapes and sizes, keeping them dry, intact and free from contamination. However, traditional blister packs come at a cost to the environment to the tune of 100,000 tonnes of plastic a year. This is a major problem and one that packaging companies and pharmaceutical firms are looking to solve.

Road To Recovery

The first rumbling of a revolution in the medical packaging world came in 2022 with the formation of an innovation group that aimed to develop a blister pack made from fibre-based materials. The Blister Pack Collective is led by PA Consulting and PulPac, a company that deals in fibre moulding technology that minimises CO2 emissions, producing packaging that has up to an 80% lower CO2 footprint than plastic, while requiring minimal water usage.

Since its formation, the Blister Pack Collective has been bolstered by the addition of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Bayer, the company behind Aspirin, Bepanthen and Claritin.

“We are excited to welcome Bayer to the Blister Pack Collective,” said Tony Perrotta, PulPac Partnership Lead at PA Consulting. “PA and PulPac formed the Collective to accelerate the progress to reduce single-use plastics, especially problem plastics like PVC, in over-the-counter, prescription drugs, nutraceuticals and confectionary items. We are delighted to join forces with leading brand partners like Bayer to accelerate development and create a global impact.”

On their part, Bayer’s shift to fibre-based packaging is part of a wider programme of sustainability. “We have a bold commitment to transform 100% of our packaging to be recyclable or renewable by 2030 and have committed to invest €100 million investment in changing how our products are made and consumed,” said Jesse DelGigante, Director of Global Packaging Innovation at Bayer Consumer Health.

Get Well Soon

Since the Bayer announcement, other healthcare and pharmaceutical companies such as Sanofi and Haleon have joined the Blister Pack Collective. The French multinational Sanofi has a long history of developing vaccines and diabetes medication, and now has a vast portfolio, including allergy, cough, cold and flu, pain care, and digestive, physical and mental wellness medication.

In a statement, the company says it “hopes to unlock blister and bottle solutions that are recyclable with paper packaging, reducing or eliminating its own single-use plastic packaging and enhancing the environmental profile of its product portfolio.”

Like all new packaging for safety-critical products, it’ll take a while for the new materials to be signed off by the medical authorities, but once it is, fibre-based blister packs will become commonplace in the market and make a significant dent in the amount of plastic produced for the medical industry.

The Paper Fact File

Paper is one of the most sustainable and recycled materials in the world!

Visit the Paper Fact File to discover the facts about paper’s sustainable attributes. Some might surprise you!