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Sanofi: Closed loop recycling - making the manufacture of medical devices more sustainable

We continuously improve our performance by working responsibly and in accordance with the principles of sustainable development. Our commitment to help our customers achieve their strategic sustainability goals is strongly aligned with our vision to offer best in class customer experience.

We are excited to be able to help Sanofi by recycling material back into the supply chain. Collaboration and innovation with our customers is key to reach strategic sustainable goals which have direct impact on the enviroment.

Sanofi: Closed loop - making the manufacture of medical devices more sustainable

Anyone who has ever built with Lego bricks knows that good pre-sorting and preparation of the bricks make a decisive contribution to successful building. The tedious search for the right brick is no longer necessary, and the sense of achievement follows promptly. It's no different with machines that are supposed to assemble something, be it cars or, as in Sanofi´s case, insulin pens. You don't necessarily want the components delivered on the proverbial silver platter, but you do want them pre-sorted and presented at a set distance from each other so that the fully automated machines can easily grab them and process them in the assembly lines."
To ensure that this works, Sanofi uses rectangular transport boxes in pen production, each of which can hold just under 200 individual parts, neatly lined up. These transport boxes, called trays by experts, are the silver platter on which the components are served. They are manufactured, among others, by the Finnish company Satatuote Oy, a specialist in plastic packaging solutions for pharmaceutical products and medical technology.

So what could be more obvious than to save as much polystyrene as possible? After all, the plastic is readily recyclable in its pure form. Or you could reuse the trays - which unfortunately only works to a limited extent in pen production for reasons of pharmaceutical quality assurance. A large proportion of the trays can be used a second time. In order to increase the added value, it therefore makes sense to recycle them. For this purpose, the trays are crushed; the resulting regrind can then be remelted and further processed. Until now, the recycling company has sold the regrind directly on the market for secondary raw materials.

Sanofi has now changed that and is recycling some of the polystyrene it uses by sending the regrind directly back to tray manufacturer Satatuote Oy. The trick is that the recycled raw material is sandwiched between two layers of virgin raw material in the thin polystyrene films, just like a sandwich. This is because exclusively recycled polystyrene may not be used in the manufacture for pharmaceutical products until now for quality reasons. The polystyrene film used for tray production therefore has three layers of different thicknesses, with "fresh" polystyrene on the outside and the recycled product in the middle. This closes the circle and 30 percent of the polystyrene is recycled. With closed loop recycled material equals 240 million yogurt pots and annual CO₂e savings are 840t.