A Swindon-based specialist supplier of packaging to the pharmaceutical, medical and healthcare industries has developed the world’s first plastic blister packs that are biodegradable when exposed to water or landfill.
Wasdell Group has also announced it can be supplied at no extra cost to its customers.
A blister pack that maintains the integrity of the pills or food supplements it protects and will biodegrade rapidly after use, has been the Holy Grail of the pharmaceutical and nutritional industries for many years. Heightened awareness of the global threat of non-degradable plastics has made the search for a solution even more pressing, as drug manufacturers, governments and consumers become more conscious of the long-term detrimental effects that waste plastic is having on the environment.
Following years of trials, Wasdell Group’s R & D division has produced blister packs that protect the drugs or nutrients from contact with oxygen and moisture and prevent contamination by odour and microbial attack, while allowing the packaging to degrade after use. Unlike products that are manufactured using oxo-degradable additives, Wasdell says that its blister packs are 100 per cent shelf stable and 96 per cent biodegradable when placed in an aerobic or anaerobic environment, waste water or marine water.
Wasdell has achieved this by employing a unique additive that can break down PVC/DC. Normally, plastics that are impermeable to gas and moisture degrade very slowly when placed in active microbial environments, but Wasdell’s additive enables microbes that come into contact with it to secrete acids that consume the plastic, converting the PVC/DC into methane, carbon dioxide, biomass and water in a far shorter space of time than other plastics – within five to ten years. Wasdell’s biodegradable plastic additive works within a three-tiered system, which allows it to be fine-tuned for pharmaceutical and nutritional companies’ individual requirements while maximising the potential for degradation.
Trials have shown that the treated film is able to biodegrade in landfill, aerobic digestion systems and aerobic facilities. The blister packs also contain compostable laminated paper similar to that used for some perishable food products, making the entire product biodegradable.
Wasdell group Chairman Martin Tedham says the development is one of the most significant in the pharmaceutical and health care industries’ drive to reduce production of damaging plastic waste.
“The healthcare, nutritional and pharmaceutical industries are very mindful of the fact that there is a need to reduce the use of plastics that may take many years to degrade, but their challenge has been to find a material that will maintain the quality and shelf-life of their pills,” says Martin Tedham.
“We have been working on this development in collaboration with specialist suppliers from the US and Asia, and are delighted that the trials have demonstrated that the additive in the blister packs has rendered them almost entirely biodegradable. This will mean that in the future patients and customers will be confident knowing that their use of blister packs, which are an essential packaging format for a huge range of pills and supplements globally, is not having a detrimental effect on the planet.”
Wasdell is Europe’s largest independent manufacturing and packaging supplier to the pharmaceutical, medical and healthcare industries. Chairman Martin Tedham brought the company to Swindon in 2010, and since then has seen an increase in turnover from £2m to £50m.
Wasdell employs more than 800 people in the UK, including scientists, doctors, packaging designers, administrators, quality controllers and packers. Around 650 of those employees are currently based in Swindon.