Skip to content

Hoped-for improvement: Orion adds clear sorting instructions for different materials to its product packaging

Carton, various types of plastic, glass... It will now be even easier to sort the materials in medicine packaging into the right waste bins as Orion is adding precise sorting labels for all the materials contained to its product packages.
3/5/2024 Author / Sanna Jäppinen

The last tablet has been taken and the blister pack is empty, now which waste bin does it go in? Many of us have probably wondered the same thing when left with an empty medicine package and it’s time to put it in the recycling bin.  
“Common sense is usually enough to help you sort carton packaging and paper package leaflets, but the right recycling bin is not always as obvious when it comes to sorting packaging containing many different materials,” says Terhi Rauhansalo, Product Manager. 
Orion wants to take responsibility for the end of the life cycle of its products, while making things easier for consumers and helping pharmacies to provide advice by adding precise sorting instructions to its packaging.  

The instructions, which are presented as clear symbols and Finnish and Swedish text, will be on the packaging of both Orion's over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as on some non-medicinal self-care products, such as nutritional supplements and emollient creams.  
In the case of medicines, the instructions will be on the inside of the packaging, while in the case of non-medicinal products, the labels may also be displayed on the outside.  

First renewed packages will be available in spring 2024

The first renewed packages equipped with sorting instructions will be available for pharmacies and consumers in Finland as early as spring 2024.  
However, not all Orion packaging will change at the same time. The renewal will proceed in stages and by product, starting with the best-selling painkillers, and the target for the first year is to add sorting labels to at least ten products.  
Nothing in stock will be thrown away, though, and all the existing packaging will be used up first. This is why the labelling will appear gradually on Orion products found on pharmacy shelves. 

Sorting labels are result of careful design process – consumer convenience was the priority

The sorting labels on the packaging have been designed by Orion’s Packaging Technology department and are the work of Hanna Bruun, Packaging Designer.  
“When designing the labels, we had to think carefully about what information consumers need and what we can fit on the packaging. And because we have so many different products, packaging and packaging materials, we needed a lot of different labels,” says Bruun. 
In addition to the easy-to-understand labels, clarity for the consumer is enhanced by the fact that the packaging will always only have instructions for sorting the materials that are contained in the packaging. 

Sorting instructions should be more widespread

Pharmaceutical product packaging is an aspect of patient safety, and the texts and labelling allowed on the packaging are strictly regulated. Orion applied for and received permission from the Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea) to add sorting instructions.  
“Of course, we hope that the addition of sorting instructions will become common practice in the pharmaceutical sector,” says Bruun.  
Orion products are sold in more than 100 countries, and in order to add sorting instructions to packaging for international markets, permission must be applied for separately in each country. 

Unused medicines should always be returned to the pharmacy

The sorting labels on Orion’s product packaging refer to the packaging materials, not the disposal of unused medicine.  
“The sorting instructions explain that only empty packaging can be recycled,” says Terhi Rauhansalo.  
“We hope that the sorting instructions on packaging will also remind consumers that unused medicines should always be returned to the pharmacy – so that they do not end up in a waste bin and from there into the environment and waterways.”