In the context of pharmaceutical manufacturing, sustainability can represent two different factors. First, sustainability can refer to the idea of protecting the business by mitigating risks that could compromise output and profitability. The second refers to reducing the impact of operations on the environment and planetary resources. These two concepts come together when pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturers consider the cost savings benefits found in reducing the environmental impact of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical production.
Companies can quantitatively measure business and environmental sustainability in several ways. One important method is to examine the efficiency of utilization, which translates to minimizing waste. It is important to note that the pharmaceutical sector is likely the least efficient of all the chemical industries in this area. For small molecule pharmaceutical manufacturers, the average waste-to-product ratio is 200/1. Some products achieve ratios of 800/1. The disparity is even worse in the biopharmaceutical sector with ratios reaching 10,000/1. In 2009, pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. reported 530,000,000 tons to the Environmental Protection Agency. At that time, 80 percent of that waste was solvent. Energy usage also enlarges a pharmaceutical plant’s carbon footprint in addition to increasing expenses. In fact, 75 to 85 percent of plant costs cover some form of energy usage.
With room for improvement in waste and energy reduction, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturers are taking some significant steps to improve sustainability and cost-efficiency.
Between energy usage and solvent disposal, pharmaceutical plants can generate a lot of carbon dioxide. Knowing that, many companies are looking toward repurposing spent organic solvents by incineration to recover stored energy as heat that can be put to use to reduce coal- or other energy-related expenses. This method of solvent disposal by conversion to energy can be more cost-effective than the process of purification and reuse. It also reduces fossil fuel consumption and carbon footprint.
The growing use of single-use components or systems to replace stainless steel equipment is another solution that is having a positive impact on both company budget sheets and the environment. As counterintuitive as it may seem, most plastic single-use components are made from natural gas, so they contain significant amounts of potential energy. Being carbohydrates, they break down extremely well, generating more energy per kilogram than coal while producing less carbon dioxide. So, not only can biotech companies can eliminate huge quantities of water—possibly by 80 percent—and cleaning materials from their production processes with the use of single-use components, they can also reinvest that plastic waste into their energy cycle for an overall carbon footprint reduction of 55 percent in some cases.
Additionally, pharmaceutical companies are looking to minimize the size of their physical footprint, leveraging smaller, more flexible equipment to maintain output while occupying less space. Smaller clean rooms and more agile lines equate to less room air filtration, less cleaning supplies, less wastewater, and ultimately fewer associated expenses.
Find Them at Pharma EXPO
While the challenges to enhance sustainability and reduce the costs surrounding waste disposal have been long-time hurdles for the pharmaceutical sector, companies in this space can find solutions at Pharma EXPO. Co-located with PACK EXPO International 2016 (Nov. 6-9; McCormick Place, Chicago), Pharma EXPO—produced in partnership between PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies and the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE)—will offer a wide range of technologies to address enhancing sustainability along the pharmaceutical supply chain. Importantly, the co-location of the shows allows pharmaceutical industry professionals to draw inspiration from other sectors in tackling this issue with a combined 2,500 exhibitors and 50,000 attendees expected to converge at Chicago.
To register for Pharma EXPO, visit www.pharmaexpo.com. Attendees will have access to both shows with one badge.
PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, represents the voice of more than 750 North American manufacturers of equipment, components, and materials for processing and packaging. The PACK EXPO trade shows unite the world of processing and packaging to advance the industries they serve: PACK EXPO International, PACK EXPO Las Vegas, Pharma EXPO, PACK EXPO East, EXPO PACK México, EXPO PACK Guadalajara, and ProFood Tech, launching in April 2017. PMMI Media Group connects manufacturers to the latest solutions, trends and innovations in processing and packaging year-round through brands including Packaging World, Automation World, Healthcare Packaging, Contract Packaging, ProFood World, and Packaging + Processing OEM. PMMI Business Drivers assist members in pursuing operational excellence through workforce development initiatives, deliver actionable business intelligence on economic, market and industry trends to support members’ growth strategies, and actively connect the supply chain throughout the year.
Lead image courtesy of PMMI.