Sustainability isn’t merely a buzzword; it’s an imperative for businesses and industries across the UK.
As global communities grapple with the challenges of reducing their carbon footprint, the medical device manufacturing sector finds itself at a crossroads between maintaining robust practices for medical safety and investing in new technologies for sustainability.
We believe introducing environmentally friendly, energy-efficient processes shouldn’t just be thought of in the same bracket as charity work. It should also be undertaken because it makes business sense and that is how Europlaz has always approached its progress into sustainable processes.
Join us as we delve into current sustainable practices in the medical device industry and how we are making changes for a greener future.
Addressing major energy consumers
Energy consumption is a large part of the burden on medical device development. To combat this, medical device developers need to look at the machinery that uses the most energy to find the biggest savings. By targeting the ‘quick wins’ with short returns on investment you can see the real benefit of these changes and build steam for bigger changes.
One of the biggest contributors to energy usage is injection moulding machines. At Europlaz, our injection moulding processes are at the heart of our work and are a central focus for energy savings.
Our fleet of 16 injection moulding machines, ranging from 16-300 ton presses, have understandably high energy consumption. To combat this, we have strategies in place to ensure the most efficient use of our machinery.
One of the best ways to ensure performance is to ensure that machines are as advanced as possible. To date, we’ve upgraded 12 of 16 moulding machines to electric variants, with the remaining four earmarked for upgrades in the near future. These state-of-the-art electric machines are not only quieter and more precise but can also reduce energy consumption by 30%-60% compared to hydraulic machines.
This can help reduce costs and the burden on the environment and is one area all medical device makers can look to improve upon.
Another integral part of the moulding process is the use of dryers. Plastic dryers are used to remove any water from plastic pellets before they go into the injection moulding machines.
To help reduce the energy load on these machines, Europlaz’s dryers are now equipped with advanced humidity monitors. These devices are designed to ensure efficiency by automatically reducing energy usage once the desired humidity level is achieved, preventing unnecessary energy wastage.
Monitoring equipment such as this can go a long way to automate power usage and reduce excess wherever possible.
Efficient air compressor management
Air compressors are another vital part of Europlaz’s operations. They power various equipment, from anti-static guns to end-of-line testers and are used to ensure the integrity and cleanliness of all products produced. We use two air compressors that operate in tandem.
This dual system ensures there’s always a backup, reducing downtime. Moreover, we conduct regular checks for air leaks, addressing any issues promptly. This meticulous approach not only conserves energy but also translates to cost savings.
A fresh perspective on product sustainability
Regulations and client requirements can sometimes be restrictive, especially when it comes to making changes to the products themselves. However, there’s always room for improvement, especially when considering out-of-the-box ideas. One such example is identifying wins in packaging.
By making seemingly simple adjustments, such as reducing pouch sizes or eliminating an extra carton layer, we’ve managed to increase the number of products per shipment. This not only reduces the number of trips, thereby cutting down on carbon emissions but also translates to logistical and financial savings.
A comprehensive view of the product lifecycle
Transparency in the process is another key part of our strategy. We include detailed information about a product’s life cycle and its CO2 emissions on the packaging to provide our customers with everything they need to know about the carbon footprint of production.
This initiative serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it educates consumers about the environmental impact of the products they use, fostering a culture of informed choices. Secondly, it sets Europlaz apart from competitors, showcasing our commitment to transparency and sustainability.
This is something that the entire industry can benefit from, as it provides more insight and allows for smarter, greener purchases.
Navigating the complexities of the medical device industry
The medical device industry is unique. Its primary focus is, and always will be, the health of patients. This often means that sustainability takes a backseat. However, Europlaz challenges this notion.
One of the areas we have earmarked for development is biopolymers. Plastics are the most trusted materials for medical devices but with the advent of biopolymers, there is a unique opportunity to develop greener alternatives with similar properties. These organic polymers, derived from living organisms, offer a greener alternative to traditional plastics.
We are keen to become leaders in this market and fully understand that investing in the research and development of bioplastics and biopolymers might be resource-intensive initially. However, in the long run, it paves the way for the creation of more sustainable medical devices. As an early adopter of this technology, suppliers can position themselves as pioneers in the industry.
The power of solar energy
Power usage is one area to improve, but power production is another. Solar panels have long been a solution to reduce electricity consumption and ensure greener, more cost-effective energy usage.
We have invested significantly in this area with 528 solar panels installed generating 19 megawatts of energy. In July 2023 alone, these panels accounted for 60% of our energy consumption, a figure that’s set to rise as we expand our solar infrastructure.
The regulatory landscape and the path forward
Transitioning to sustainable practices in the medical device industry isn’t without its challenges. Regulatory hurdles often mean that any significant change requires extensive documentation, testing, and approvals.
However, we view these not as barriers, but as opportunities. By navigating the regulatory landscape and showcasing the long-term benefits of sustainable practices, we’re not only reducing our carbon footprint but also offering unique selling points, such as biopolymer products with a 10-year degradation period instead of several hundred years.
Work with Europlaz today
The journey to sustainability in the medical device manufacturing sector is intricate and multifaceted. However, as our ongoing initiatives demonstrate, with a proactive approach and a commitment to innovation, significant strides can be made. As the industry continues to evolve, manufacturers who prioritise sustainability will not only benefit the environment but also cement their position as leaders in a competitive market.
Contact us today to find out more about what we offer and how we can help you develop a medical device sustainably and efficiently.
 Sustainability Management in Plastics Processing: Strategies, Targets, Techniques and Tools, R. Kent (2023)