Environmental Impact: Reusable vs. Single Use

Aug 4, 2023

Sustainability is a topic that remains at the forefront for the pharmaceutical industry. Suppliers, including those who provide temperature controlled packaging solutions, must also work to ensure they're supporting the industry in improving the overall environmental impact of manufacturing and delivering pharmaceutical products. A white paper by Peli BioThermal explores how single use and reusable temperature controlled shippers impact sustainability.

Traditionally, companies have used single-use thermal containers made with extruded polystyrene (EPS) or polyurethane (PUR) insulation and gel pack heat sinks to ship temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals. Over the course of a two-year clinical trial, companies would make an average of 30,000 individual package shipments and emit 1,122 tonnes of CO2e with this approach.

A two-year clinical trial using a Peli BioThermal reusable product--the Crēdo Cube™, in this example--requires only 772 units and 241 tonnes of CO2e. This is a 78% difference in global warming potential between the single-use and reusable approaches. 

Similar differences exist in other impact categories with the reusable approach showing 66% less acidification potential, 67% less eutrophication potential, 86% less photochemical ozone potential, 56% less human toxicity potential and 95% less post-consumer waste. The cradle-to-gate emissions of a single-use container is the overwhelming cause of its high environmental burden since it requires manufacturing and using more units. Additionally, the reusable container in this example is about half the weight of the average single-use container, which lowers its transportation impact below the single-use approach emissions despite an extra leg of travel needed to return reusable containers.

The environmental break-even point between the two logistical approaches occurs after as few as six shipments for photochemical ozone potential and as many as 17 shipments for human toxicity potential. This outcome strongly suggests that a reusable approach is environmentally preferable for any organization that utilizes large shipping volumes that require thermal control.

To learn more about the differences in environmental impact, view the full white paper here.

Credo Cube reusable parcel shipper