Whether you specialize in medical devices or pharmaceutical packaging, certified product and package disposal is a must.
There's no getting around it. Medical packaging companies carry a significant burden many other industries don't face, or at least to the same degree.
Discarded medical packaging in the wrong hands is used to mislead and potentially harm consumers who think they're buying the quality-tested, FDA-cleared safe products sold by the manufacturer. Most consumers assume the products are sourced directly from the manufacturers since they typically see the instructions on the actual packaging.
This isn't a small problem. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1% of medication sold is counterfeit worldwide. It's as high as 50% in some countries. The organization further estimates that as many as 10% of medical products sold in low- to middle-income countries is falsified in some way (counterfeit, expired, adulterated, etc.).
As a medical packaging company, you play an important role in preventing this from happening when the branded packaging for these medical and pharmaceutical products must be discarded. You also may have to dispose of products inside the packaging if they are found to be faulty in some way while still in your possession.
Here’s what you need to know about certified product disposal and the need for it as one of your medical equipment and medication packaging solutions.
What Is The Grey Market?
Certified product disposal ensures that branded materials (whether the materials themselves or the packaging they come in) are properly destroyed so they don't end up on the grey market.
What is the grey market? The grey market is where people sell items at a reduced cost on "trusted" sites like eBay and Amazon. (Many sites like eBay and Amazon go to extraordinary lengths to prevent fraudulent products on their sites, but a handful of products still get through. Other less stringent sites have no such protections.) However, these items are usually knock-offs, faulty or expired. The products themselves may be legitimate, but the packaging that they are being sold in is counterfeit.
Getting your hands on medical product packaging and products that can be sold on the grey market is like discovering a gold mine. These items are often stolen out of trash receptacles. Or, employees looking to make a quick buck take them when they should be disposing of them.
The grey market is massive and dangerous. Certified product disposal reduces the ability of unscrupulous individuals to scam others into paying for something that is not what it seems.
What Is Certified Product Disposal?
Certified product disposal employs strategies like photo-confirmation and documented chain of custody to ensure product and packaging marked for disposal actually meets that fate.
Certified product disposal is technical in practice. However, this is really about people.
This important process helps prevent someone's grandmother from getting a faulty medical device that lands her in the hospital or worse. The medical device packaging may be legitimate, but the device is cheaply made, leading to injury. The same goes for expired or tampered medication. Yes, this happens in the United States. But it doesn't matter what country this happens in or who's grandparent this is. This is a tragedy certified disposal can prevent.
Medical packaging companies face serious risks when they do not properly dispose of medical packaging.
Ultimately, the potential for misused medical packaging:
- Puts consumers at risk. They think they're buying a trusted medical product they need for life and health.
- Creates liability and legal challenges for both packaging companies and the medical supply company.
- Erodes trust for both.
Medical equipment is costly. It's crucial for it to work correctly. People want to know they are getting an actual product that impacts how a person is cared for, and if a faulty piece of equipment is put on the grey market, that can be problematic.
A variety of branded items can cause grey market problems for medical packaging companies, such as:
- Branded packaging (tissue paper, boxes, bags)
- Products that had to be stopped in the supply chain for one reason or another - mislabeling, expiration, safety recalls, end of season, discontinued lines, accidental shipments, etc.
- Damaged product (e.g., heat seal indicates excessive heat exposure)
- Blister packaging for medications
- Packaging redesigns
- Medicine packaging
- The shipping boxes that products or packaging arrive in
- Misprinted or excess labels
- Medical device instruction booklets and warranties
- Private labeling issues
This form of disposal is vital across various markets, from technology to household goods. When it comes to medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, it can be a matter of life and death.
What Happens During a Certified Disposal?
Your certified disposal company follows a written, customized and agreed upon disposal plan to the letter. Here are some of the safeguards certified disposal offers:
- Your products await disposal under 24/7 surveillance in secure facilities.
- When possible, products and packaging may be recycled or reused in such a way that they cannot end up on grey market. Disposal methods include non-hazardous incineration, aerosol recycling and ingredient capture for reuse in other processes.
- You receive video and/or photographic evidence of disposal.
- You receive paperwork and documentation for your records, including hazardous waste disposal documentation as necessary.
- You receive a Certificate of Destruction.
Click the image below to get the step-by-step process of certified product destruction.
How To Find Medical Packaging Companies
When evaluating your options in securing a certified disposal company, it’s important to first determine whether you need hazardous waste disposal. Many pharmaceutical drugs and some medical equipment is considered hazardous and must be disposed of according to federal and state regulations. Not all certified product disposal companies will be able to meet these requirements.
Your certified disposal company should also be prepared to take the above steps in the previous section to ensure protection of your packaging, including offering around-the-clock surveillance and evidence of disposal.
Other tips for finding the best product disposal service include looking for a company that:
- Develops a customized plan that meets your needs as a packaging company
- Handles pickups promptly
- Does sampling to help you identify hazardous waste
- Addresses any issues you have with costs, pickups or your disposal plan
- Works with you to safely package and prepare hazardous waste
It is also critical that the company you work with is licensed and registered. You can easily find this information by checking out the California Department of Toxic Substances Control’s Registered Hazardous Waste Transporter Database.
Finally, a certified disposal company should have a great track record of delivering on its promises. One of the best ways to determine the quality of a company is to ask for references and to reach out to medical packaging companies like yours to ask about the experiences they had working with the company you are considering.
Medical packaging companies have a great responsibility to their clients and consumers. Ignoring the grey market doesn't make it any less real.
The counterfeiting enabled by trashed products is a real and present threat. You can take steps to secure products and packaging that could be misused. A certified waste disposal company becomes your ally in ensuring all waste is disposed of properly.