Significant environmental benefits can come from simply reducing the weight of a product by a few grams, or from a complete change in materials and design. Examples can be found in high-volume consumer goods – and it’s never too late to green a product or its packaging.

Top-selling cap for pharmaceuticals

Producing hundreds of millions of caps makes material efficiency an important consideration.

“For 30 years, our top-selling caps for pharmaceutical packaging have been designated ‘SC.’ Over the years, we’ve produced hundreds of millions of these caps,” says Glenn Svedberg, CEO of Nolato Cerbo. “SC is part of the Cerbo Classic range. It’s a screw cap with a guaranteed seal from an inner membrane that has to be removed to get to the medicine.”

Now, after all these years, a new version of the cap has been developed. “This new cap cuts down on the amount of plastic raw material required, and at the same time we’ve worked hard to reduce waste during manufacturing,” Svedberg says. The SC Light lid weighs 30 percent less than the previous product, which reduces energy consumption during manufacturing since less plastic raw material needs to be heated and then cooled down again. The manufacturing flow has also been optimized: the old design required moving each cap among three different machines, a time-consuming process. But the new SC Light cap is manufactured in a single combined automated cell, shortening the cycle time.

Since the caps are used in pharmaceutical packaging, the product has undergone extensive validation of function and performance before being approved. “A few grams here and there can really contribute to better environmental performance,” Svedberg says.

Reduced impact at half the cost

For many years, Vitamex omega-3 fatty acid capsules have been sold in a round aluminum tin that was less than optimal in terms of shelf exposure and environmental performance. The manufacturer, Midelfart Sonesson, decided to give its Triomega product a facelift with a new package, staking out design requirements that included better visibility, adequate label space, reduced environmental impact and lower manufacturing cost. The assignment to produce the new package went to a Norwegian design firm, Design 2025, and Nolato Cerbo.

The new bottle is injection-molded in lightweight, white, recyclable polypropylene.

“Right from the start, we felt that the package shouldn’t look like a typical round plastic bottle, but should have a more exciting form,” says Dennis Broberg, development manager at Nolato Cerbo. “The shape itself should improve visibility on the shelf while making space for larger labels with a premium-brand feel.” Following an extensive development process, the resulting bottle and cap are injection-molded in lightweight, white, recyclable polypropylene. The components are delivered as a unit to the customer, and after they’re filled with omega-3 capsules, the lid is fused in an ultrasonic process to create a tight seal. The package is easy for the consumer to open and close.

The Triomega package was first introduced in the Norwegian market and is now also available in Sweden. The requirement of good visibility on store shelves has been met, but what about the requirements on reduced environmental impact and lower production cost? “From an environmental and cost standpoint, the project was successful. Compared to an aluminum can, the new packaging reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent and production cost has been cut by half,” Broberg concludes.

Article published in March 2011.