Waste minimisation in the bulk pharmaceutical industry
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Waste disposal is a major problem for today’s society. The traditional outlets for wastes, like landfilling are fast disappearing and for many types of wastes it is no longer an option. The problems of disposal of hazardous waste is even more problematical, especially with no established outlet in Ireland. The Bulk Pharmaceutical Industry, in Ireland is a major economic player but the industry has serious concerns about the availability of outlets for its hazardous and non-hazardous waste. This has made the industry rethink its strategy to the management of waste. In the sixties and seventies, the emphasis was on end-of-pipe technology for the treatment of waste. In the late eighties / early nineties, the emphasis changed to waste minimisation. As a result, many of the Bulk Pharmaceutical plants developed a waste minimisation programme. A central element of the programme is the waste minimisation hierarchy. Elimination => Source Reduction => Recycling Treatment => Disposal Establishing a waste minimisation programme in a plant will require the commitment of all employees from Senior Management to the Shop Floor Operatives. As with any project, best results can be achieved if the programme is well structured and organised — in other words, if a system’s approach is adopted. While the costs factor is very important and cannot be ignored, nevertheless to be consistent with the principle of sustainable development, it is important to consider projects which may be economically neutral. It is also important for the success of the programme to provide regular status reports on the state of progress. Waste minimisation techniques can be broken down into four categories, namely inventory management, production process modifications, volume reduction and recovery. The first three categories can be classified under source reduction and the last one under recovery/reuse. In the Bulk Pharmaceutical Industry solvent recovery and reuse forms an important aspect of waste minimisation, but is limited to a certain extent by regulatory constraints. Process changes can also be complicated by the requirement for validation. The practical application of waste minimisation is described in a case study of a Bulk Pharmaceutical, manufacturing plant located in the Cork area.
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