How GSK achieved a 20% plastic reduction for Advil bottles – Take Five with Packaging World

Fast hits:

  • New barrier resin technology is reducing the amount of resin required to mold and manufacture high density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles.
  • This is achieved through a nucleating agent that is added to the resin itself.
  • The success is a combination of materials and more precise molding with Compression Blow Forming (CBF).
  • GSK also relies on sustainability in renewable energy generation.

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Read the following transcript:

Matt Reynolds: Hi, I’m Matt Reynolds, Editor of Packaging World Magazine, back with another issue of Take Five. Today I am handing it over to my colleague, Karen Sookne. She is the director of editorial content for Healthcare Packaging Magazine. She will tell us more about how GSK and their large ibuprofen brand, Advil, were able to reduce the amount of plastic in their HDPE bottles by 20%. Well how and why did they do it? We’ll hear more from Karen.

Keren Sookne: I’m Keren Sookne with Take Five Video. Today we’re talking about GSK Consumer Healthcare’s new Advil Bottles that reduce plastic by 20%. The company reports that this will result in a reduction of nearly 500,000 pounds of plastic in the environment annually.

I recently spoke to Sarah McDonald, vice president of sustainability at GSK Consumer Healthcare. She explained that the reduction is made possible by a unique sustainable plastic technology for over-the-counter drugs, which reduces the amount of resin required to mold and manufacture the high density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles.

How did you do this? A nucleating agent is added to the resin itself. GSK worked with Dow and Milliken on the materials side and Alltrista Plastics on the component manufacturing side.

Alltrista forms bottles using compression blow molding (or CBF). If you are not familiar with this process: CBF continuously extrudes plastic, cuts it into “lumps” and transfers the lumps into press cavities, where they are pressed into preforms and stretch-blown into finished bottles.

Ultimately, plastic reduction is a combination of materials and more accurate molding with CBF. The bottles can run on GSK’s existing packaging lines.

This took 7 years and required extensive testing to ensure that the barrier protection properties matched those of the existing bottle and to ensure that regulatory requirements were met.

McDonald stated that it does not affect recyclability as it does not require a discrete barrier layer. The bottle itself is recyclable as HDPE is recyclable on Stream # 2 in the US

Regardless of the resin change and CBF, GSK also reduced the weight of the caps by 11% (with the same process and the same material).

The updated bottles are already available in retail stores in the United States. The Advil portfolio will be available online and in retail stores nationwide through 2022, with the exception of Advil’s “easy open” bottles.

GSK is currently examining how this resin technology can be used elsewhere. This has been a significant investment in time and resources to develop and they want to use it in other products in addition to other ways to reduce or eliminate plastic.

Every day there are new personal care products that switch to reusable or recyclable packaging – especially for toothpaste and oral care. Packaging World recently announced Unilever’s plans for recyclable toothpaste tubes. GSK is on that boat too and recently committed to making over a billion tubes of toothpaste recyclable by 2025 as part of its ongoing sustainability strategy.

This reduction in plastic is now part of a greater commitment to sustainability. Another focus of GSK is the promotion of the use of renewable energies, which also includes on-site power generation if the conditions permit – especially for solar energy.

GSK’s on-site solar power generation in Cape Town went online in February 2020, and on-site solar in Nairobi and Brazil is also scheduled to go into operation in 2021.

Not every location is an ideal candidate for on-site generation. We also work with purchase contracts to obtain renewable electricity where it is not possible on site. It’s all part of their goal to have 100% renewable electricity in manufacturing facilities by 2030.

Thank you and see you next time at Take Five Video with Packaging World!

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