Reducing Packaging Waste with Reusable Shipping Solution

Amgen medicines are precious cargo. Our attention to them doesn’t end when they leave our warehouses. Our staff apply their skill to ensure that Amgen medicines arrive at their destinations in the same condition as when they were shipped from our warehouses.

Temperatures of medicines in transit often need to be maintained within a certain temperature range (as examples, maintained from 2 to 8 or 15-25 degrees Celsius). During land and air transit, the ambient temperatures may range from -10 to 35 degrees Celsius. This level of temperature control for the medicines during transit has required substantial packaging in most cases—large cartons, bulky insulation and as many as 10-16 pouches of coolant—all of which would need to be disposed of or recycled upon receipt at the destination.

In 2015, a group of Amgen’s thermal engineers and suppliers explored ways of reducing the environmental impact of the shipping materials and began piloting a solution that used reusable shipping systems. Starting in our clinical distribution network in Thousand Oaks—with medicines that are shipped for use in clinical trials—Amgen began shipping medicines in reusable packaging cubes that are more durable, with superior temperature controls.

Amgen has switched to a reusable shipping package system for clinical shipments and some commercial shipments.

Once staff at a clinical trial site receive the reusable package, they remove the contents, reassemble the package and ship it prepaid to a service center. The service center refurbishes the shipper as needed and then sends it back to Amgen to be used to ship medicines around the world.

"Instead of going to recycling or landfilling after one use, these improved package systems can be reused more than 20 times, reducing waste and lowering cost over the lifetime of the packaging,” said Ray Goff, principal engineer, Amgen Final Product Technology, Core. 

And the benefits don’t stop there. With the new reusable system, significantly fewer shippers need to be stored in the Amgen warehouses. This means less need for cold storage space, further reducing our environmental footprint. 

As of the end of 2018, Amgen had implemented these reusable systems in more than 90 percent of the clinical network and in 5 percent of the commercial network. The systems reduced solid waste by 98 percent compared to the use of disposable packaging systems. While this approach doesn’t directly impact Amgen’s waste generation, it does help to reduce waste generated at locations where these medicines are shipped.

"This new packaging system is another example of how staff contribute to Amgen innovation," said Bill Rich, vice president, Final Product Technology. "I am thrilled about this advanced packaging system that not only improves our ability to serve patients, but also reduces waste and improves the environmental footprint of our company."