By Grace Oldham, Head of Business Development, at Axil Integrated Services

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are some of the largest producers of waste around the world. Although the industry is highly regulated, this does not always extend to the management of waste materials, meaning the influence waste has in driving a more sustainable production process is often overlooked.

The world of waste management is evolving. For so long, manufacturers were happy for waste companies to simply empty bins and keep waste moving off-site. However, many now understand the value that can be derived from the waste they produce, and manufacturers are beginning to unlock their wastes’ potential.

Waste Segregation

Segregation of different laboratory wastes can improve compliance and safety, whilst introducing cost savings. Solvents are the most common waste material and manufacturers strive to recover and recycle these to reduce environmental impact. Although not as simple as other forms of waste segregation, substantial savings can be achieved by separating solvents.

In addition, cost savings can be realised simply through segregating pharmaceutical solids from their packaging. By enabling the outer packaging to be recycled, significant savings and a reduction in carbon footprint can be realised. Many manufactures are cautious of the auditor, and often waste ends up as hazardous waste when the manufacturer is unsure of its correct classification – this is an expensive fix-all. Through staff engagement, non-hazardous materials can be diverted into general waste, resulting in significant cost and environmental savings.

Flexible hazardous waste storage can allow for capacity to fluctuate between materials, without breaching site regulations or causing unnecessary collections. This provides a flexible working solution to match the peaks and falls of different product wastes across the site.

Turning waste into commodity

Consumers expect the manufacturing process to be carried out in a sustainable way. Pharmaceutical manufacturers have implemented greener processes and adopted waste reduction strategies alongside setting robust recycling targets. However, vast amounts of waste materials continue to be disregarded despite the value they hold.

Solvents, effluents, and branded card and plastic packaging can achieve significant rebates. By changing the way these materials are presented for disposal on-site prior to collection, you can reduce transport costs, cut carbon footprint through reduction in vehicle movements, and turn waste disposal costs into a profitable revenue stream.

Striving for Circularity

Lower grade solvent materials or redundant stocks can also be re- sold as raw materials to industries where a reduced level of purity is acceptable in the manufacturing process to minimise waste and drive circularity. We recently achieved £16,000 income for one of our pharmaceutical manufacturers by selling their waste materials back to market. Previously, this would have cost £7,000 per annum to dispose of via incineration, creating a swing of over £23,000.

There can also be an over-reliance on high temperature incineration as a disposal method for pharmaceutical hazardous waste, but with improved segregation there are ‘greener’ alternatives such as EfW, autoclave and/or chemical treatment & recovery.

Secure disposal

Brand integrity is of paramount importance and secure disposal is key to ensuring reject products failing stringent quality control measures don’t find their way to market. Such events would pose a significant danger to life, in addition to the damage it would cause to brand integrity. Several Pharmaceutical companies manufacture for third parties, and a breach in security of this type could threaten existing contracts damaging the ability to secure future business.

What does good waste management look like?

A good waste management partner will champion continuous improvement across your facilities, with a dedicated contract manager regularly driving innovation and improving processes.

  • Reporting – Ensure you understand the ins and outs of waste streams as this is vital to drive change
  • Reducing non-conformance – The holy grail is site-based technical support to manage wastes which vary in composition to ensure best-possible outcomes, both commercially and environmentally, and minimise risk to the business
  • Access to whole of market – Choose a waste partner with access to the whole market for disposal routes and material rebates.

Total waste management and recycling specialist Axil Integrated Services is urging manufacturers to reassess their waste management strategy and has released a new whitepaper, titled ‘At your disposal: Getting waste to work harder for your business’.

To download the whitepaper, visit

Grace Oldham is Head of Business Development, at Axil Integrated Services