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‘Sustainable packaging is in our DNA’: Körber’s plastic-free monomaterial packaging
Grabs, Switzerland: Modular Dividella NeoTOP toploading cartoners allied with innovative Rondo folded monomaterial packaging are enabling Körber to meet the challenges of plastics-free packaging for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.
Körber’s business area Pharma has been a pioneer in the field of sustainable packaging that is compact, innovative, and environmentally friendly.
In the face of ever-increasing concerns about microplastic pollution of the world’s ecosystems, Körber has stepped up its efforts to deliver a plastic-free future for its customers with Dividella Solutions and Rondo Solutions leading the way.
Global plastics pandemic
According to recent figures compiled by the UK-based environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage, world production of plastics rose from 1.5m tonnes In 1950 to more than 320m tonnes by 2016, on course to double to more than 650m tonnes by 2034. Every day approximately eight million pieces of plastic find their way into the oceans, where it is estimated around 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces are now floating in the waters.
Recent studies have revealed plastic ingestion in all marine turtles studied, almost two thirds of whales, and 40% of seabird species examined. Around 100,000 marine mammals and a million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution each year. Scientists have recently discovered microplastics embedded even deep in the Arctic ice.
Trend to monomaterials
Even before the environmental imperative became clear, Körber was embracing plastics-free monomaterial solutions as part of a drive to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) and total cost of packaging (TCP) for its customers.
“In combination with the range of packaging machines offered by Dividella Solutions, this makes us a pioneer for sustainable production chains. Sustainable packaging has been part of our DNA for more than 40 years,” says Patric Buck, Head of Innovation for Packaging Material at the Körber Business Area Pharma.
However, he says the drive to eliminate plastics from packaging is now accelerating. “A very clear trend is now visible: The customers of our Rondo Solutions want to move away from plastic and use as little of it as possible. Ideally, no plastic at all will be used in packaging any more five to ten years from now,” says Buck.
Monomaterials business case
Not only do monomaterials paper and cardboard based packaging use cheaper and more sustainable materials, they also reduce costs all along the logistics chain by reducing weight and volume in storage and shipping and for end-users.
Furthermore, top-loaded monomaterial packages are more user-friendly. Accessible from above, Dividella NeoTOP packaged cartons are easy to handle, to open and products can be easily removed. In combination with automation and inline inspection, the toploading function offers excellent visibility to each component as it is packaged. This minimizes any potential for errors, improving overall quality compliance and control.
Patric Buck is convinced that the pharmaceutical industry will be able to eliminate plastics packaging completely, which is why his team are working even harder to develop 100% sustainable solutions.
Through Rondo Solutions, Körber supplies packaging manufactured exclusively from a single material to customers from the international pharmaceutical and Biotech industry. The basis for this packaging consists solely of monomaterials made from trees that were felled in the Black Forest, Austria, and Scandinavia. The company also uses sustainability criteria in its careful selection of partners and suppliers.
There is further work to do.
“A lot of work will be required especially in the area of primary packaging, which directly contains the medications. The good news is that initial alternatives already exist. Examples include organic materials such as compostable bags as well as fungi and certain bamboo species that are already being used in other industrial sectors to develop packaging materials. One of the many challenges that the packaging experts at Körber enjoy focusing on is how to make these materials meet market needs while also being financially attractive for customers.
Development of monomaterial folding boxes involves a lot more than customers initially think. Basic design plays a key role in ensuring product security and protection as well as affecting end user experience.
Mr. Ehrne, Head of Engineering for Packaging Machines at the Körber Business Area Pharma points out that package designs and developments are often very complex, involving intense initial brainstorming sessions and methodical product development, proofing of prototypes, and finalization and production of final solutions.
“How is the packaging constructed? How can it be opened? Where does it have to be folded and how? In some cases, if we were only off by even half a millimeter, we would no longer have viable packaging – such a mistake would prevent the partitions from securely holding the products. As a result, the products would move around within the box or even touch one another. This would be disastrous for those customers who require that any glass-to-glass contact be prevented,” he explains.
Integrated modular solutions
Körber experts are well used to developing new packaging design formats to meet increasingly complex pharmaceutical requirements, hand-in-hand with the modular machines that erect and load them.
Körber Packaging and Machines encompass the construction and development of packaging platforms, machine concepts for processing the cardboard, and creating the appropriate packaging solutions. Flat blanks for boxes supplied by the Packaging Material unit are unfolded and glued on the cartoning machines, where the products are then carefully placed inside the boxes and the boxes are sealed. Before these Körber packaging systems are shipped to the customers, the machines and the associated cartons are put through various testing, commissioning, and acceptance stages at the production facility in Grabs in the Swiss canton of St. Gall.
Tailored to application
Tamper evidence features are also becoming increasingly important in assuring product safety and security for end-users.
“Our customers benefit from our comprehensive range of consulting services, working closely with them to find optimal solutions for secure packaging of sensitive products. We strive to create optimized packaging sizes for the cooling chain and develop packaging that consumers can easily handle.” adds Ehrne.
Körber is an international technology group with around 10,000 employees, more than 100 locations worldwide and a common goal: We turn entrepreneurial thinking into customer success and shape the technological change. In the Business Areas Digital, Pharma, Supply Chain, Tissue and Tobacco, we offer products, solutions and services that inspire.
At the Körber Business Area Pharma we are delivering the difference along the pharma value chain with our unique portfolio of integrated solutions.