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20 Sep 2021

A Circular Economy and it's Importance to National & European Economies

Neutroplast is a plastic packaging producer whose main focus is supplying the pharmaceutical industry. The company has been present in the market for over twenty-five years and is a prominent player in the Portuguese pharmaceutical industry landscape. Over time, it has constantly strived to develop a sector that is vital for our society in partnership with pharmaceutical companies, universities, research hubs, industry associations, and other stakeholders.

This article outlines ongoing projects in the field of sustainability, goals to be achieved, and deadlines

For Neutroplast, the circular economy is nothing new. As a plastics processor, we are very aware of the role these products play in the global environmental equilibrium. So the European Commission Directive on Plastic and the way it approaches the use of this raw material came as no surprise, both because there is a need to think about the use of plastic in a new way, and because of the awareness that plastic is an integral material in the economy and in our daily lives.

Projects Driving Sustainability in Pharmaceutical Packaging

In the course of our business, we were already aware of a pressing need to recreate plastic processing industries. Therefore, we started a silent revolution in the form of a wide range of initiatives to reduce our environmental footprint:

We have made considerable investments, such as photovoltaic panels for self-consumption or the automation of internal production processes, and these have brought considerable improvements to the environmental performance of our business, but also in multiple smaller initiatives, which cut across all processes and produced significant results.

There was a focus on the company's consumption of plastic and plastic cups and cutlery were removed; now these utensils are made of ceramic and metal. Plastic bottles were also removed with the installation of new drinking fountains and glass and aluminum bottles were gifted to employees. On the other hand, the coffee drunk on the premises is now provided free by the company and is made without using capsules of any kind.

Electricity consumption was also completely overhauled: we installed LED lighting at all locations, where possible, and now carry out close monitoring of air flows, which on the one hand allows for a smaller impact on the electricity used for compressed air generation and, on the other hand, waste reduction and reuse of materials has reached levels of excellence through SMED procedures, standardisation of tools, and protocols for Organization, Order, and Cleaning.

But Neutroplast believes that this path cannot be walked alone. We accept our role as a leader in ecological industrial associations; we actively participated in Operation Clean Sweep, our partners include Zero Plastic Oceans and SmartWaste Portugal, and we are also subject to analysis in the ECOVADIS index. Collaboration with these key organizations in the new configuration of environmental protection is in fact proof positive of capacity generated by joint initiatives for defending the environment and establishing the Circular Economy.

Future Projects

But the future is even more ambitious, since the goal is to achieve a production and business process with 0% waste and still remove plastic from the market, through processes for the re-use of materials, sticking to our commitments to produce high-quality raw materials needed to supply the pharmaceutical industry.

Combining the advantages of plastic with the urgent need to reformulate the use thereof is only possible through a “circular” approach, in which this very efficient raw material that it is present in almost all the products we use begins to be reused extensively, through processes that include plastic producers, recyclers, retailers, and consumers. Therefore, innovation must be the fundamental focus behind acheiving this goal, involving the widespread reuse of plastic and a change in consumer habits. Only then will the sustainability of plastics improve, opening an opportunity for competitiveness and job creation in a key industry in the European economy.

Efficiency thus moves to a position of ecological design, where improving the sustainability of our production, through gains in efficiency, helps us attain the desired level of ecological impact. The introduction of many pieces of equipment, the change in production systems, and the change in environmental behaviour are therefore a manifestation of how incremental improvements in our actions have an impact on both us and the environment, achieving higher product quality, affirming Neutroplast's place as a trailblazer of the both Portuguese and international pharmaceutical industries.

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