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How to Save 1,000 kilos of CO2 per 333-litre Refrigerated Packaging

Thanks to the First-ever Circular Economy Pharmaceutical Packaging

2019 was a turning point. It was the year when fears of palpable global climate change gripped society as a whole, including the worlds of business and industry. In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic led to a second dramatic realisation. In order to increase the resilience of global supply chains there is a radical need for greater sustainability. eutecma’s objective now is to tap into the enormous potential that climate-friendly, no-waste packaging can offer for the temperature-controlled transportation of pharmaceuticals. At the end of a three-year process of evaluation and development, we have created, for example, the 333-liter PROTECT cooling box, estimated to be reusable 15 times and can save up to 1,000 kilos of CO2. This is possible thanks to the first-ever circular economy system in the pharmaceutical packaging sector. The so-called retecma Loop, which is based on artificial intelligence (AI), ensures that not a single gram of expanded polystyrene (EPS) material is lost.

eutecma’s drive towards increased sustainability in the temperature-controlled transportation of pharmaceuticals began in 2019. Our strategic concept could be compared with that of a bifocal lens. Just as the lens is designed for both close-up and distance vision, eutecma’s development projects have followed two directions. On the one hand, the challenge was to make existing products more sustainable quickly; on the other hand, the medium-term goal was to redesign the pharmaceutical supply chain packaging radically.

Bifocal – Close up: Rapid Successes with Sustainable Products

This has resulted in ecological product alternatives which became available as early as 2020. For example, the foil composites of our ICECATCH© passive energy storage units consist of 50% sugar cane waste material. The latter bears the quality seal “I’m green”, developed by Braskem, the Brazilian producer of polyethylene based on sugar cane waste. In the case of the PROTECT packaging systems, the customer has a choice between packaging boxes made from conventional Virgin EPS/styrofoam and others made from recycled styrofoam (Styrofoam Ccycled). This secondary material consists of pyrolysis oil, which is produced by the world’s largest chemical company BASF from plastic waste. Both innovative products improve our customers’ CO2 balance significantly. Last but not the least, we have launched an information campaign with the aim of informing customers how to PROTECT packaging and ICECATCH© passive energy storage units can be used not just once but multiple times – without jeopardising the temperature integrity or the quality of the transportation.

Bifocal – the Distant View: Rethinking Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Packaging

While more rapidly sustainable product alternatives were being shipped from our company headquarters in the Port of Mannheim, we were at the same time working on a “big bang”. This was because, we recognised that to achieve a drastic reduction in CO2 levels and also in waste material, packaging in the pharmaceutical supply chain needs to be completely reconfigured. The fact that there were numerous requests for “100% green and temperature-regulated packaging” indicated that customers would welcome such a development. All too often, supposedly sustainable products had turned out to be the mere “greenwashing” in the marketplace. We interpreted these requests not only as confirmation that we are on the right track but also as a challenge to fully rework the issue of pharmaceutical packaging.

Step 1: The Choice of Material

We began with the question: Must temperature-regulated high-tech packaging really have to consist of EPS? Can we not assume that wool, straw, and hemp are much more sustainable materials? So, we launched a two-year evaluation process, to be conducted without any preconceived views. This presented no problems to us, since eutecma is not a producer of EPS, but simply a provider, which means that we don’t have to bear the burden of production and machineries. Accordingly, it would have been possible for us to switch to an alternative material immediately without incurring losses. We investigated the following materials: paper, cardboard, wool, hemp, cotton, used textiles, and various plastics.