A 'green' way to ship medicines

FV Home Infusion_Pharm Shipping Coolers

New starch-based shipping packaging (left) for medicines is better for patients and our environment. Polystyrene (right) takes hundreds of years to decompose in landfills.

New coolers put FHI on the map for environmental stewardship
Fairview Home Infusion recently became one of the first health system-affiliated pharmacy organizations to use a “green” alternative to ship temperature-sensitive medications.

We are preventing an estimated 44,000 polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam™) coolers from reaching landfills in 2013 and serving as a model for organizations seeking environmentally friendlier ways to ship temperature-sensitive materials.

Like most businesses that send medications to their patients, FHI previously used coolers made from polystyrene foam to ship those requiring precise temperature control.

“Polystyrene takes hundreds of years to decompose and most recyclers do not accept it at curbside pickup,” says Pat McDonough, Fairview Pharmacy Services facilities manager.

Pat watched over time as truckload after truckload of polystyrene coolers filled with pharmaceuticals left our docks bound for patients’ homes and the thousands that returned for disposal.

“There’s always something that sort of eats at you,” he said.

With help from others and Fairview’s Green Committee and sustainability team, we found an eco-friendly alternative shipping solution.

“Patient safety, service and efficacy are my top priorities,” says Mark Lutcavish, shipping supervisor. “After doing the research for more than a year, I learned that ‘green’ does work. We found a solution that had insulation properties equivalent to polystyrene, solves customer service issues about disposal and reduces our transportation costs for picking up old coolers. It is an investment in operations and customer service.”

That solution is called Green Cell Foam™, a non-toxic, renewable cornstarch material that is easy to compost or recycle. It also meets the highest standards for patient safety and Board of Pharmacy regulations. Each cooler is comprised of six panels made from Green Cell Foam that fits tightly in a cardboard box.

We also now use “green” recyclable bubble wrap for more fragile shipments.

StarchTech Inc., based in Golden Valley, Minn., is providing the cooler panels and Merrick, a Minneapolis nonprofit organization that offers vocational support for adults with disabilities, is providing job crews to assemble the coolers before shipment.

Along with their deliveries, patients receive informational fliers printed on recycled paper outlining how to recycle or compost the coolers.

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