What difference will banning pMDIs make?
Total inhaler gas emissions – are they significant?
- HFA in pMDIs is over a 1000 times more global warming than CO2, and ~51m are sold a year in the UK.
- pMDIs contain 10 to 12 gm each and so only account for a tiny fraction (0.2%) of total UK CO2e.
Personal footprint – asthma puffer effect?
- Yearly CO2e emissions from individual inhalers are comparable to those from individual long journeys by air or car and less than yearly leaks from domestic air conditioning units.
- Changing to low CO2e or DPIs will still save nearly 1/3 Tonne of CO2 per person per year – still worth doing if there is no negative clinical effect.
In the context of other much larger (99.8%) CO2e emission sources, it’s not fair or reasonable to make patients feel guilty about the environmental impact of taking their medicine.
Provide better alternatives.
The changing perception towards disposable inhalers
HFA global warming potential – environmental impact
- New propellants in the EU (for refrigeration) must now have a GWP < 150. The case for phasing out 134a (GWP 1300) and 227 (GWP 3350) in medical use will be debated in early 2020
- 152a (GWP 138) and 1234 (GWP 1) are replacement candidates, but 1234 only has human body exterior use registration at this time
- In the UK currently the total pMDI use accounts for 0.2% of national CO2e emissions. By using the new propellants this will fall to either 0.02% or almost zero with 1234
Plastic and other waste
- pMDIs use PP for the actuator (boot) which is easily separable, but mostly is not recycled
- DPIs typically use a range of plastics (PP, ABS, POM, PBT, Nylon) as well as aluminium laminated foils which would require complex disassembly for recycling
- In 2019 UK plastic recycling generally is less than 9%, with inhalers much less than that
NEW — Electronic waste: the impact of ‘smart’ devices:
- Next-generation inhalers with “smart” functionality include electronics, (software), data storage and batteries which make disposal environmentally unfriendly
- Batteries are environmentally damaging, printed circuit boards are complex and costly to recover, gold flashing requires volume for cost-effective recovery, silicon chips have a high embodied energy
Sustainable inhaler business model
Embrace the “R”’s
- Reduce waste, Recover materials, Recycle components, Remanufacture products, Reuse devices.
- (Regulatory change will be needed for some of these to be implemented)
For sustainable business, make the business case sustainable
- Don’t see your profit and investment go to landfill.
- Businesses need to commit to understanding how recovery and re-use can work for their businesses – at ALL levels.
- Build an economically sustainable model, otherwise environmental sustainability initiatives will fail .
- Where remanufacture is impracticable, consider Bio-degradable materials to reduce long-term plastic waste.
- This is a long-term initiative, next generation products are the most likely to benefit.
Understand the benefits for the entire business
- Design, Manufacturing, Sales, Aftersales, Marketing and Management will all be affected and will all need to be considered and included.
- New business functions – product recovery, triage, disassembly, cleaning and testing – will need to be designed and carefully integrated
How can you start?
Build a solid business case
- Look at the current cost structure
- Look at the entire supply chain for opportunities to recover used products
- Learn from other industries – food, packaging, automotive, postage meters, textiles, furniture
- Understand how to move from a linear to a circular model
- Model costs and savings from recovery, remanufacture and resale.
- SHOW THE BENEFIT
Design for remanufacture
- Design for assembly AND disassembly
- Design re-usable components for multiple lifetimes.
- Understand how to introduce used components into existing manufacturing
- Look carefully at quality control and risk management
Don’t reinvent the wheel
- Look to existing and previous best practice
- Learn from organisations such as The Ellen Macarthur Foundation
UPC has extensive experience of medical device design and manufacturing, and 15 years on BSI DFMA Standards and Steering committees.
Let us help you transition from disposable to a more sustainable model.