Materials Science

Glass makes a come-back

By Vijay Shah, Executive Director of Piramal Enterprises and Vice Chairman of Piramal Glass

We speak to Vijay Shah, Executive Director of Piramal Enterprises and Vice Chairman of Piramal Glass, about the growing re-p

Piramal Glass Vijay Shah 2020-01.jpg

We speak to Vijay Shah, Executive Director of Piramal Enterprises and Vice Chairman of Piramal Glass, about the growing re-popularity of glass packaging for pharmaceutical products.
With increased pressures to reduce the use of virgin plastics and plastic packaging, many companies are turning to glass. Made from natural sustainable raw materials, and as the only widely-used packaging material considered ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), glass is 100% recyclable and can be reused with no loss in quality or purity. As glass emerges as a preferred packaging for consumers concerned about their health and the environment, we spoke to Vijay Shah, Executive Director of Piramal Enterprises and Vice Chairman of Piramal Glass, about the growing re-popularity of this most traditional of pharmaceutical containers.
Q: For hundreds of years, glass containers were used to hold medicinal products – when did we stop using glass, and why?
Traditionally, glass has been a preferred option in terms of packaging solutions for pharma companies. However, in 1947 plastic was introduced as an alternative cost-effective packaging solution to glass. Having said that, plastic never truly replaced glass containers completely and, with the advent of technology and digitization, glass has evolved into a flexible product that can be moulded in various shapes and sizes. Additionally, it is a highly recyclable and environmental-friendly option.
Q: How is the market for glass packaging developing, and what is driving those changes?
The global pharmaceutical glass packaging market size is expected to reach $ 22.05 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research. There has been a recent market trend for companies increasingly opting for glass containers to store and market medicinal products, and we have been witnessing a reverse market trend – from plastic to glass. A few of the contributing factors have been:
  • Increased consumer spending on beauty treatments
  • Premiumization of packaging for these markets
  • Rising penetration of cosmetics and perfumery in developing countries.
Increased awareness around the impact and adverse effects that plastic has on health and environment has also been driving the industry to adapt and embrace sustainable alternatives.
Q: What are the advantages of glass packaging for modern pharmaceuticals products?
Glass packaging is relatively inert packaging and does not react with the content, so there is no leaching or contamination of the medicinal products. When it comes to injectable and infusion products, borosilicate glass packaging is used – this is even more inert than ‘normal’ glass.
Plastics have made deep inroads as a substitute to glass packaging without fully appreciating the consequences of using plastics. Studies have clearly indicate that, in extreme temperature and conditions prevailing in India, for example, there is leaching of plastic materials into medicinal content of the product.  In addition, plastic containers are not bio-degradable. The total incremental cost of plastic packaging is much higher than glass.

Q: Is glass packaging as flexible and adaptive as plastic alternatives?
The evolution of technology has enabled us to transform glass into viable options – moulding it into different shapes, sizes and unique designs that cater to the needs of customers across industries. Additionally, manufacturers now treat glass internally as well as externally, making them more durable and robust. Recently, we developed a new range of thin, lightweight glass bottles, further reducing the energy and raw material consumption.
Q: Where does Piramal Glass source its raw materials?
An important element of our sustainability strategy is to use raw material and energy responsibly. We are increasing the usage of eco-friendly energy mixes and recycled glass to reduce the overall energy consumption and carbon emission thus contributing to a safer and greener work environment.
We source most raw materials such as sand, limestone and soda ash, locally. India is rich in the high-quality natural minerals and chemicals required for glass manufacturing.
Piramal Glass has invested in both solar and wind renewable energy to the extent allowed by the local authorities.  Our plant roofs are covered by solar panels!  In addition, our plants are ‘zero discharge’, meaning we do not allow any untreated water / effluents into the environment. 
Q: Can you predict the future?
Overall, future prospects of the glass marketing industry are encouraging and positive. An increase in the consumption of glass packaging solutions for pharma, along with the food and beverages industry, will drive demand over the next few years.
We are the largest specialty glass player in Asia and have been the fastest growing glass company in the world for over a decade. We have progressed rapidly on our transformation journey and have made substantial investments in digital technologies. This has resulted in 1% improved production efficiency within just eight months, and a 40% reduction in manual data gathering. With real-time feedback and communication, we have seen lower numbers of defects being generated. We will continue to invest and improve, and we will continue to lead the speciality glass market in Asia, and solidify our position on the global stage.