Why the Pharmaceutical sector is switching to Wool – the Natural Smart Fibre

Pioneers in insulated packaging for Pharma

Woolcool. Insulated Packaging. Naturally.

Woolcool® was launched in 2008 and the innovative, sustainable design has scooped an impressive haul of awards in the packaging, business and environmental arenas.

October, 2020

Wool is an age-old material, whose properties have been formed over millions of years of evolution. Yet it has been ignored in recent times and replaced by man-made alternatives. Typically seen as a material for use in carpet or clothing, research into wool and its benefits has also waned. Until now.
Wool is a smart, complex and very technical fibre, and due to Woolcool®’s pioneering innovation in the temperature controlled packaging sector, it is being rapidly adopted – across the globe – by Pharmaceutical firms to create innovative insulated packaging for pharma.
Why? Because it delivers the superior high performance required to ship medical products while bringing the added benefits of impeccable ecological credentials.

Woolcool® are world leaders in the sustainable packaging movement, and market pioneers in our technical expertise. One of our core values at Woolcool® is to ensure that all of our temperature controlled packaging products are backed up by serious research and science. That means the right material, in the right application, fully researched from beginning to end of life. We have invested significant time and funds into researching just how Wool can be utilised to solve the challenges of temperature controlled packaging across many sectors, with a particular and specific focus on insulated packaging for pharma. Through this research with Universities such as Cambridge, Bangor and Sheffield, we have harnessed the natural properties that this complex smart fibre provides, to create a range of game-changing solutions, that not only set high expectations on performance but are ecologically and environmentally sound. Created by nature, driven by science!

The goal of any insulated packaging for pharma is for the content to be delivered within the specific temperature range, ensuring its contents remain viable, safe and ready to use. With medical and Pharma deliveries – such as vaccines and medicines – this can literally be a matter of life and death.

As a consequence, the Pharma world expects exacting standards of its temperature controlled packaging solutions, backed up by hard, tested data and in-depth scientific research. The properties of real pure sheep wool, as an amazing insulator – whether as part of a refrigerated delivery chain or as passive packaging – are raising the bar and attracting significant interest within the sector.

Temperature-sensitive deliveries typically, although not exclusively, fall within two ranges – 2-8°C and 15-25°C – and wool utilised across our range of solutions, as a temperature regulator developed by nature through millions of years of evolution, consistently performs to maintain the challenging demands of both. Crucially, for many more recent Pharma guidelines changes, wool performs exceptionally for products requiring regulation at CRT – or Controlled Room Temperature – meaning it is leading the sector at protecting a vast range of temperature sensitive contents in all passive situations. When refrigeration is not available to help keep a delivery cool – such as a vaccine delivery into a rural area or difficult terrain – insulated packaging for pharma using wool provides both the protective and insulative answer to this conundrum.

But there are other benefits to using wool, not least its space-saving value. At Woolcool®, we have spent more than 10 years perfecting our 100% pure wool liners, which are delivered flat packed, are flexible and light. Internal operations wise, our own research has shown that the equivalent of four full trucks of polystyrene box deliveries will fit onto a single truck of Woolcool® liners.

For the shipments out, our liner’s flexibility means they can wrap around contents, eliminating unnecessary air pockets and reducing the volume of packaging. We also see that in comparison to alternatives Woolcool® uses fewer ice packs to achieve like-for-like performance. The result is that shipments take up significantly less space than those using conventional poly box forms of insulation, and often will see an increase in payload space too.

Another emerging benefit of wool in insulated packaging for pharma is its shatter and damage prevention features. Woolcool® has been pioneering this natural material’s use in temperature controlled packaging for over a decade, investing millions of pounds in research and development providing data that proves its high performance as an insulator.

However, our work has also shown how the smart fibre attributes of wool also make it a protective packaging component at the same time – wool absorbs impact while allowing a level of flexibility not found in manmade insulators such as polystyrene. Add to this the fact that Wool will also absorb up to 40% of its own weight in moisture without feeling wet, meaning products are protected from any condensation damage in the box, as the Wool will remove this moisture from the air.

And then, of course is one of the most important elements in modern time – the impeccable ecological credentials that come with using 100% real wool in your packaging.

As the world faces the threat of climate change, companies are shifting to ensure insulated packaging for pharma are as ecologically-sound as practical, while not undermining the vital and exacting performance attributes required. Having proven it outperforms manmade alternatives, wool brings the additional benefit of being biodegradable, compostable, reusable, recyclable and abundant.

Its light-weight, flexible form creates a much smaller carbon footprint than poly alternatives, which also use significant amounts of energy and chemicals to manufacture. Wool will break down in soil, releasing nutrients, and easily breaks up in seawater. It really is one of the most sustainable materials known to man.

In the last year alone, companies who use Woolcool® temperature controlled packaging have saved over 1670 tonnes of polystyrene insulation from landfill – that’s the equivalent weight of 417 elephants.

The pharmaceutical industry rightly looks to research to ensure the packaging it employs provides the reliability required. Our research, both in-house and with partners including Cambridge University, has provided tried-and-tested data to meet those exacting requirements.

Given the other benefits of wool in temperature controlled packaging – its cost-effectiveness, space-saving value, damage prevention properties and green credentials – it’s no wonder the Pharma Sector is starting to sit up and buy into the many values that using Wool can bring to solve these long-term challenges.

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