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Responsible Management of Pharmaceutical Industry Waste


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January 19, 2017 by Terrapure Environmental

The pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is growing quickly and, as a result, so too are the by-products and waste it generates.  With tighter regulations and an increased focus on corporate social responsibility, companies in the sector are understandably concerned about managing their environmental impact.

An important aspect of an industry-leading environmental program is proper waste management.  Not only is waste management crucial to minimizing environmental impact, but it also significantly reduces liabilities and risk associated with off-spec or even dangerous products ending up in secondary markets.

Responsible waste management starts at the source

“Proper waste management in the pharmaceutical sector involves more than just the recycling or destruction and disposal of materials,” said Todd Smith, Vice President of Environmental Solutions for Central Canada at Terrapure.  “It is critically important to be able to monitor and track waste every step of the way, beginning  at the customer’s site, through transportation and ultimately the final disposal at a regulated waste management facility.’’

Today, Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology allows every detail to be monitored – from bottles and cartons to drums and skids.  All material is inventoried before reaches the waste management facility and undergoes a final set of tests in the lab before the destruction process can begin.  In addition, leading waste management companies are introducing barcoding technology to be able to further monitor and report on the type and amount of a customer’s waste, as well as where and at what stage of processing or disposal it is at any given time.

A carefully executed and documented destruction process

The typical destruction process involves the following steps:

Shredding and grinding

First, solids such as pills, bottles, boxes and other packaging material must be separated from the liquids.  Solids are then shredded and grinded to a particulate specification that meets the customer’s exact needs.  For example, for those customers who require it, some waste management companies can guarantee that shredding and grinding will ensure unrecognizable text on bottles or other packaging.

Co-mingling solids

To provide additional security, all shredded and ground by-products are gathered and co-mingled with other non-hazardous materials to ensure they are not able to be retrieved.  From there, materials are sent to an incinerator for final disposal, for a threefold destruction process.

Fuel blending

Some waste management companies specialize in the blending of pharmaceutical materials with residual heat value, such as off-spec or expired consumer products and liquid industrial wastes, and transforming them into alternate fuel for use by industry.

Incineration

For those materials that are not able to be recovered for their heat value, incineration is the final stage of disposal, allowing for the complete destruction and disposal of non-hazardous pharmaceutical liquids and solids.

Audit Preparation

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to provide extensive reporting and auditing material to regulatory bodies, including Health Canada’s Therapeutic Products Directorate (TPD) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA). Proper waste management also calls for accurate and timely paperwork.  Certificates of destruction and all supplementary paperwork for shipment, including waste management termination and other administrative documents, need to be delivered to the manufacturer as quickly as possible.

“Today, waste management and environmental solutions companies are no longer just providing a service; they are their customers’ partners and this is especially true for pharmaceutical manufacturers who are subject to stringent audits,” adds Terrapure’s Smith.  “Knowing how important audit materials are for pharmaceutical customers, our team prides itself on delivering these documents within just three days and helping them navigate the audit process by being available 24/7.”

Pharmaceutical manufacturers can benefit from working with an experienced partner in their pursuit of an effective solution that minimizes the environmental impact of their waste streams and provides the utmost in security and disposal for regulated materials.

An expert environmental solutions provider will strategically evaluate and characterize their various waste streams to help both the environment and their business’s bottom line, ensure a safe and efficient destruction process, and support them in their regulated audit processes.

About the Author

Terrapure Environmental, a leading Canadian environmental solutions provider, offers a thorough waste destruction and disposal process that provides pharmaceutical manufacturers peace of mind knowing their waste streams will not be a risk to their reputation or bottom line.