For numerous people, cutting intake of plastic has become the norm, just as recycling in basic is now component of day-to-day life. Yet what if her life depends on a plastic product which has no obvious second life?

For civilization living with diabetes, their insulin pen is an essential daily companion. Yet even if an insulin pen consists of approximately 77% plastic, it cannot be thrown into the plastic recycling bin in addition to empty juice bottles and food packaging. Existing guidance varies from nation to country, yet often used insulin pens end up in general family waste, which according to Dorethe Nielsen, vice president of ecological Strategy in ~ Novo Nordisk, is far from an optimal solution.

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“Every year us produce and distribute more than 550 million pen gadgets worldwide, and as this number grows, the puts us at the forefront of among the world’s biggest eco-friendly challenges: plastic waste,” she explains.

“Even though us strive to use as environmentally friendly materials as possible, that still no an optimal use of resources if used insulin pens finish up in landfills. It is why we’re working to discover a better and an ext circular solution – one that allows our devices to have actually a 2nd life.”


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An insulin pen is make from number of components and is – for noticeable reasons – no designed to be quickly disassembled as soon as it has rolled off the manufacturing line.

In order come recycle the plastic parts, Novo Nordisk first needed to find a way of automatically sorting the pen’s many components.

“We were nearly at the suggest of composing this job off as impossible, once a talented colleague within manufacturing designed a machine which could do specifically what we needed it come do,” Dorethe says.

As a pilot, the machine was tested on pen discarded after production - and also has yielded impressive results.

“It just functioned – so well, in fact, that us were may be to usage the discarded plastic to make office chairs in cooperation with a Danish architecture firm,” Dorethe says. “Meanwhile, the glass from our discarded insulin vials has also been given a brand-new lease that life after being melted down to develop lamps,” Dorethe says.

The an obstacle now is to scale up the solution, which until now has actually only been offered for pen that never ever make it off the manufacturing line.

“It mirrors us that it is possible,” Dorethe adds. “We are now engaging with partners who deserve to handle our used insulin pens on a much larger scale, while at the exact same time making certain that the products are being placed to great use.”


For all of this come work, one important connect in the chain is quiet missing. One effective method of collecting used insulin pen from patients – a so-called ‘take-back’ programme – still does not exist in most countries.

“We should come up with an easy method of collecting used pens native the users. This could sound like straightforward task, yet it is really something that has actually proven come be fairly a challenge – especially on a an international scale,” Dorethe says.

Dorethe is, however, expecting Novo Nordisk come launch a take-back pilot in some nations during the next pair of years. In ~ the same time, her hope is that in future this an obstacle will it is in one that the pharmaceutical industry deserve to unite on.

“My hope is the we have the right to solve this with each other as one industry,” she says. “This is a an obstacle which is ideal approached by every one of us detect a single, scalable solution, make it basic for ours patients and us to take better care of the environment.”


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Dorethe underlines, the the take-back pilot is not the just way, in i beg your pardon we work to reuse or recycle plastic.

“We have actually a clear ambition to come to be a fully circular company, and also therefore ours commitment to playing our part in addressing the world plastic difficulty does no start and stop v insulin pens,” she says.

Dorethe explains that various kinds of plastic phone call for different approaches.

“In 2019, us banned every single-used plastic not supplied for details and relevant purposes within ours R&D organization or in production,” she says.

“But within manufacturing we likewise have another form of high-quality plastic waste which can easily be given a brand-new life in every sorts of products. Due to the fact that early 2000 we have actually been heavily invested in making certain that this wake up wherever possible.”


According to Dorethe, this job-related is beginning to bear fruit and also our worldwide production currently recycles much more than 90% of its waste.

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“For a long time, we have been collecting plastic waste from our production, making certain that it is reused or recycled,” she says.

“But in the recent years we have actually seen a readjust in society towards a much more sustainable mindset, which has enabled us come make demands on who we carry out to, and that our plastic is used for sustainable products.”

“I think these space really interesting times, wherein we watch a many companies and organisations coming with each other in finding services to problems that should be height of mind for every one of us – how we take much better care of our environment and also create a much more circular world.”