A Roadmap to Greener Pharma Logistics

A Medicine Maker story on developing a roadmap to outline steps towards greener practices.

Pharmaceutical logistics by its nature creates sustainability challenges. There are opportunities for improvement, however, across warehousing, transportation, and packaging activities.

Implementing new technologies and solutions designed to improve the sustainability of pharmaceutical logistics practices must not impact drug product quality or in any way conflict with GDP guidance and the numerous regulatory requirements that govern the handling, warehousing, and transportation of pharmaceutical products.

The greatest limitations concern packaging. Some pharmaceutical raw materials and drug products are highly potent and/or classified as dangerous goods. Typically, packaging that is close to drug products must be of food grade, resistive to damages and is often not available in recyclable forms.

Logistics service providers must also contend with the demands and expectations of their customers. Although many pharmaceutical companies are actively seeking ways to reduce their environmental impact, there are some cases where they insist on the use of a certain type of packaging because that format was employed in the stability or transportation studies conducted to support regulatory approval. Some customers might also be able to accept a certain product in a special packaging and not in any other.

There is, therefore, a constant struggle between the desire to reduce carbon emissions and resource consumption, and the need to maintain strict quality and safety standards.

At our company, Logistics4Pharma, we have drafted a five-year plan for achieving a set of specific sustainability goals that will benefit the environment, customers, and the company. In addition to increasing recycling and reducing waste generation, the company has also committed to implementing more advanced technologies and automation across its activities.

In 2022, we invested in the installation of a top-of-the-line compressor and cooling system for our temperature-controlled warehouse. The new system is designed to function with an advanced, biodegradable coolant, making it more ecologically favorable.

We also modified our warehouse lighting strategy to maximize the use of daylight and only use electrical lighting when necessary. Similarly, we installed more effective thermostats for regulating non-cooled areas of the warehouse, with automated controls programmed for maximum efficiency installed wherever possible.

To be effective with our energy usage, sensor technologies were deployed in all areas of our temperature-controlled warehouse. By mapping the temperatures in the warehouse during different seasons we are able to identify the areas that experience the greatest extremes in temperature during changing weather. Analyzing data from the sensors on a weekly basis enables us to track changes in temperature as they occur. This approach not only helps prevent temperature excursions – it also reduces high energy peaks. This is achieved by proactively adjusting temperature set points to warehouse specific values that ensure energy efficient operation of cooling equipment.

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