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Reduce, Redesign, Recover, Recycle

IPI speaks with Dr. Nazneen Rahman, CBE, Founder and CEO of YewMaker and Director of the Sustainable Medicines Partnership about why partnerships will be critical in the design, innovation, implementation, and execution of sustainable packaging solutions.

What gap does the Sustainable Medicines Packaging Awards address, and why are these awards needed?

If you want to make medicines more sustainable you have to include packaging front and centre, because the packaging is integral to a medicine’s effectiveness. This is more evident with drug delivery devices like inhalers, where it’s clear the package is part of the product, but it is relevant to all medicines.

But because it’s so integral, pharmaceutical packaging is subject to tight regulations, which presents challenges and makes it tough to be sustainable or to do things differently. That’s why we wanted to shine a light on the ingenuity and engineering required to make good pharmaceutical packaging more sustainable, without compromising function.

If you’re in the packaging industry, you might think it would be easier to start your sustainability journey somewhere else. But we discovered so many interesting ideas and innovations already in practice. We wanted to showcase these efforts because we know it’s taken real commitment at every level to take a pharmaceutical packaging product or process in a more sustainable direction.

We hope the awards serve as an inspiration to others who may believe sustainable innovations are for the future or prefer to wait and see what others have done. We hope the awards inspire people to think: ‘okay, maybe we could do that because these others have done it.’

Did the first round of awards, which launched in 2022, achieve those goals?

Absolutely. We were really impressed by the calibre of the applications, and with the engagement at the panel event at Connect in Pharma, in Geneva. There were so many people at the event, and there was such a good buzz surrounding it. The panelists were all award finalists and were so engaging and enthusiastic. The first awards and the launch event exceeded our hopes. We were delighted.

Is there anything you plan to do differently this year?

It’s always tempting to fiddle with things, but it’s good to go through a period of solidification. So we haven’t changed anything this year. It’s the same categories, and we’ve again made it very simple to enter. People liked that!

We had people say to us: ‘Oh, I didn’t know something like that would qualify. We’ve got something that probably would be classed as more sustainable.’ We are keen to get people thinking broadly about how to define a sustainable innovation. It can be anything you want it to be, as long as it’s really reducing waste, or making things more efficient, or making things more circular.