Eco-design is on everyone's radar. Whether it's driven by internal ESG goals or external regulatory pressures, the push to reduce environmental impact is top of mind. Every year, over 1 million tons of plastics are generated in healthcare facilities, most of which end up in landfills.
Understanding eco-design and incorporating end-of-life considerations throughout the design and development process can play a vital role in solving environmental challenges. While the primary principles are the familiar "reuse, reduce, recycle", there is no one-size-fits-all answer to implementation. Context is everything and application depends largely on the product, organization, and where products will be sold or distributed.
The levers pulled - materials selection, device design, packaging, manufacturing, distribution, and disposal channels - are dictated by these factors as well.
Challenges with Drug Delivery
Implementing circular economies in drug delivery devices comes with a unique set of challenges. Perhaps the most obvious is that most use single-use plastics are designed for the convenience and safety of the user. Reliance on virgin plastics and hesitancy to use recycled material in production impedes a truly closed loop system.
Biohazard risks have influenced the existing infrastructure and disposal methods. Successful strategies must account for the willingness of patients and key stakeholders like pharmacies, manufacturers, and recycling plants, to buy in. This extends to patient advocacy groups and other regulatory agencies.
To add another layer of complexity, environmental protections in the United States lack consistency at the state level. You could have many as 50 unique strategies depending on the markets and regions you operate in.
The Good News
The good news is, small changes multiplied over millions of devices can have a big impact. And there are plenty of levers to pull to make these small wins a reality.
Starting with materials selection and design, to packaging and distribution, and final disposal and waste streams, small tweaks throughout the supply chain can lessen the impact on the environment.
Do you source more eco-friendly materials? Design previously single-use components for reuse? Can you reduce or eliminate packaging materials? Partner with stakeholders to implement improved disposal processes? Maybe you can alter the manufacturing process to eliminate scrap or incorporate recycled plastics.
Three Eco-Design Scenarios
In drug delivery systems, there are three potential scenarios where sustainable choices can be woven into the development. Each has a different available solution set and varying degrees of environmental and reputational impact.
The Legacy Product
These products allow for the improvement of existing designs, with respect to current investments and regulatory clearances. This strategy doesn't allow for improvements in materials selection, device design, or distribution, and offers the least amount of value.
This approach involves an evaluation to assess the reputational and future market impact of implementing changes before regulatory submission. This doesn't allow for modifications to the materials or distribution. Although it can move the needle in terms of reputational impact, there is still room for improvement.
The New Product
Ground up inclusion of eco-design principles, from development to commercialization, provides the greatest opportunity to reduce long-term environmental impact. Everything is on the table, including selecting eco-friendly materials, new forms of distribution, and implementing innovative solutions for disposal.
The Battelle Advantage
When it comes to developing sustainable medical devices, Battelle takes a holistic approach – we leverage our expertise in chemistry, material science and device development to create a new generation of devices that are environmentally friendly and meet performance and quality standards.
With over 65 years of medical device experience and decades of environmental remediation R&D and having partnered with leading biotech, pharma, and medical device OEM’s, we understand how to bring more sustainable products to market.
We use our expertise in materials science, engineering, and human factors to create a comprehensive solution but develop the tools and methods to bring them to life.