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Lucy Chard
6 Feb 2023

Pharmapack Europe 2023 Award Winners – Rotor Print for Eco-design

Left: Jordi Franco (Pharma packaging Consultant); Middle: Gerard Parés (Sustainability Manager); Right: Albert Costa (Sales Manager) accepting the award at Pharmapack in Paris

We interview the winners of the Pharmapack Europe Awards 2023, which were held at Pharmapack in Paris. The winners, chosen by a jury, each developed an innovative solution in the categories of Drug Delivery Innovation, Packaging Innovation, Sustainability Initiative, Eco-Design, and Patient-Centric Design. 

The winner of this year's Health Product Award for Eco-Design was Rotor Print (Barcelona, Spain) for their Pharma blister 100% PET product. We spoke to Gerard Parés, Sustainability Manager at Rotor Print, regarding their win. 

Please can you give a little bit of background information about yourself, your team and Rotor Print?  

Rotor Print was founded in 2010, with the idea of  printing and producing films for flexible packaging. Since the beginning, we have aimed to offer the highest quality of printing as well as being in accordance with the pharmaceutical quality required. With this purpose in mind, the company invested to meet the highest requirement certifications. The result was, factories certified with ISO 15378 and BRCGS, and an entire factory in a “clean room” setting. Rotor Print are also highly aware of the environment, we realise that the first step for a real circular economy in the packaging market is to ensure the recyclability of the packaging. On that point, Rotor Print made the decision  to invest in I+D+i  to be able to develop more sustainable solutions looking forward on the Asset life cycle. 

Congratulations on winning the award for Eco Design for your product, Pharma blister 100% PET, please can you describe the product for us and what makes it so unique? 

The recyclable blister for the pharmaceutical market is an innovation of the conventional blister. Normally, the blisters are composed by a lidding foil of aluminium, plus a bottom foil of PVC. This structure is impossible to recycle due the inability to separate the different materials. At Rotor Print we wanted to find a recyclable solution for that packaging. The main challenge was to get a mono-material blister, without aluminium and without PVC (to prevent the generation of hydrogen chloride gases) and with good barrier properties to preserve the product. Analysing the conventional blisters, we can see the aluminium foil (normally 20 microns) has barrier qualities lower than 0 compared to water vapour and oxygen, nevertheless, we don’t need to equal these barrier qualities because PVC has higher permeability (OTR = <15 and WTR <3,2). We might focus on the PVC barrier because of the higher permeability. Next, we wanted to equal the usability of the aluminium, something that has an easy push through of the pills once the user is taking it out of the product. In order to achieve all these requirements and with the knowledge of the materials, we choose PET. We had a mono material, 100% PET with barrier properties equal to PVC, and we found a way to ensure an easy push-through system. This is how we got our recyclable blister for the pharmaceutical market. 

Can you describe how the idea and development of this product came about? 

Rotor Print is committed to the sustainability of the packaging industry and so with the recyclability of the packaging. For that reason, once we analysed the conventional blisters, which we realised are not being recycled, we wanted to provide a recyclable solution for it. 

Many pharmaceutical companies are working towards major sustainability goals such as Net Zero, what challenges can you foresee in this, and do you think these goals are achievable? 

Environmental awareness is getting more common in society, and that pushes companies to show their commitment for sustainability. It’s good to hear that the companies are moving forward to more sustainable products. Also it’s good to hear about the regulations proposal of the UE, which put the recyclability of packaging as mandatory for the commercialisation of packaging by 2035 (for pharmaceutical products). If the main players as the big brands and the rules move towards eco-design and for the recyclability of the products, we will be able to have a real circular economy and we will be able to avoid greenwashing. 

What do you think the pharmaceutical packaging industry needs to do to achieve a higher level of sustainability as a whole? 

The sustainability of the packaging means recyclability, so the first step is to design taking into account the asset lifecycle. For that, one of the first steps is to understand the recycling plants, and design by thinking about how this product will be recycled. For that, first of all we might avoid using multiple materials, and after that we will be able to optimise the packaging size and other stages to reduce the impact of the packaging.  

How will winning the award here at Pharmapack help support you as a company? 

Winning an award is always great because it recognises all the efforts of our team to create the product. Further, winning the Eco-design award at the Innovation awards at Pharmapack means being recognised by one of the highest expo in the pharmaceutical industry. This will help us to show our product and to gain brand awareness, to show to the market that we are working so hard on I+D+i to develop new solutions, and also to show how committed we are to sustainability. 

What more can we look forward to seeing from Rotor Print in the future?

We will keep developing new solutions for more recyclable packaging. Right now we have many mono materials solutions; PP stream, PE stream or Paper stream. All of them are high barrier properties for packaging such as sachets, flowpacks, sticks or doypacks. As well as these solutions we will keep improving the recyclable blister to try to achieve even better barrier properties. 

Mentioned Companies
Rotor Print
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Lucy Chard
Digital Editor - Pharma

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