The prevailing wind of sustainability seems to favor recycling, renewable materials, and the reduction of product bulk and size. Scanning articles on LinkedIn regarding sustainability there is little doubt we seem to be clustering on the leading edge of the problem. The Recycle, Renew, Reuse mantra has been in the sustainability lexicon since 1976 when Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to increase recycling and conservation efforts. In the sustainability conversation efficiency is far less talked about and yet perhaps this is where the real value of sustainability resides. In short “slop” is expensive and has a huge environmental impact. We have a bias toward electric cars over managing human workflows, during the COVID event, the air in Los Angeles famously cleared for a short while as the human masses moved to work dispersed. Our society is built on layers and layers of antiquated and inefficient systems. We spend far too much of our time trying to build smart workarounds when the obvious answer is to do the hard work of redeveloping efficiency systems, sometimes from scratch.
In medical device packaging our focus is centered on packaging designs that utilize less material, but what about the machinery that seals these medical device pouches? If we are to look at a wider view of sustainability, then we need to consider upstream factors such as energy consumption. Constant heat-sealing packaging machines can consume a great deal of energy at rest, wasting electricity. Impulse pouch sealers provide a more energy-efficient solution to this needless waste as they are only heating during the pouch sealing process. Van der Stähl Scientific and Hawo have brought to the US marketplace medical device pouch sealers that use a fraction of the energy of comparable devices with an innovative sealing technology and features such as their stand-by function. This is a great example of an efficient system that reduces waste, and it is an actionable change that could benefit your production line today.
Efficiency indeed feeds sustainability in a very important way, we all seem to be waiting for the magic “coming soon” medical device pouch material made from renewable sources and yet we step over opportunities to take actions that are available now. With just a few simple Kaizen measures we can make more efficient packaging line workflows that utilize smarter “green” packaging machines.
At our company, we are on a constant watch to avoid adopting sustainability efforts that may only serve to brand our firm as “Green Forward”. Corporate sustainability signaling on LinkedIn and your website will not move the needle forward. Let us all agree to do things that have real value, sure I believe in recycle, renew, reuse however these chants seem a tad evanescence and lightweight. Let us not wait for the miracle cures in new material, let us rather work with what we have today, and efficiency is indeed our available tool that can begin to push the waste Genie back into the bottle.