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Plastic Bank and French health lab to slash pharma industry packaging waste

#Plastic Bank and French health lab to slash pharma industry packaging waste

02 Apr 2024 — Horus Pharma, a French laboratory for ophthalmology and preservative-free products designed to facilitate eye and eyelid health, has extended its partnership with Plastic Bank to offset its plastic footprint and tackle pollution in the Mediterranean. The pharmaceutical industry generally struggles to balance the necessity of using virgin medical-grade plastic for packaging with reducing waste.

The plastic waste collection program is helping to reduce ocean pollution and supports local communities with an income, access to healthcare and education.

The goal is to recycle close to 300 metric tons of pharmaceutical plastic waste, the equivalent of 15 million plastic bottles, which will be collected from Mediterranean shores by 2025 via Plastic Bank’s collection center in Egypt.

A spokesperson at Horus Pharma tells Packaging Insights that as a pharma industry player, reducing and recycling plastic waste is a main goal. “But the deal with Plastic Bank is way more attractive for our company as it champions a circular economy.”

“Our team is proud of this offsetting technique because it shines a light on our collective commitment to sustainable and responsible practices in the pharmaceutical sector and helps to address social issues.”

The news comes as a new study by German research institutes found that plastic pollution extends far beyond known ocean hotspots.

Woman standing in front of collected plastic waste.The goal of the partnership is to recycle the equivalent of 15 million plastic bottles.Facing a conundrum
The pharmaceutical industry is essential to society’s health and well-being, stresses the Horus Pharma spokesperson.

“Whatever the medication or the device, it is paramount to ensure the active substance, bloods or organs are not contaminated,” they say.

“That is the reason why the vast majority of primary packaging in the pharmaceutical industry is still virgin medical grade plastic (including bottles, syringes and endoscopes). There is some promising research and developments to replace plastic in some blisters and bottles but it’s still nascent”

“Not only can’t the pharmaceutical industry use PCR plastic, but, very often, their plastic is considered as medical waste and can’t even be recycled (for example, syringes, pouches and pens).”

The pharmaceutical industry is therefore facing a conundrum.

“On one hand, it wants — and has to — reduce the environmental impact of its operations, on the other hand it has no choice but to use virgin medical grade plastic in most of its primary packaging.”

According to Horus Pharma, the industry has two choices: do nothing or offset its plastic footprint.

Tackling Egypt’s pollution
In 2022, Horus Pharma collaborated with Plastic Bank to recycle the quantity of plastic used in the packaging for ten of its products. The range represented slightly over 100 metric tons by year-end 2023, or the equivalent of 5 million 500 mL bottles.

Now, Horus Pharma is reportedly offsetting 65% of the plastics it markets, with 400 metric tons of plastic set to be recycled between year-end 2022 and year-end 2025.

The initiative is a pillar of Horus Pharma’s Eco Ophtalmo program, encompassing its environmental and social action and campaigns. It reflects the company’s attachment to the Mediterranean region and the protection of its resources, including in Egypt, a country facing plastic pollution-related challenges.

“Cairo is a city of 22 million inhabitants and there is no waste collection and recycling infrastructure in place. It is the communities of nine districts of Cairo who go pick up the trash across the city, bring it back to their homes to sort it and retrieve all the recyclables, which they then sell to recyclers,” explains the spokesperson.

Last month, Plastic Bank, SIG and the German development agency unveiled a project leveraging blockchain technology to address Egypt’s packaging pollution and bolster the livelihoods of local waste collectors.

By Natalie Schwertheim

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