Reducing the Environmental Impact of Manufacturing

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-01-02-2016, Volume 40, Issue 1
Pages: 36–38

DAVID LEAHY/GETTY IMAGESThe pharmaceutical industry has an important role to play in implementing solutions to global envi

The pharmaceutical industry has an important role to play in implementing solutions to global environmental challenges, such as the availability of clean water and reducing energy use. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is one example of a healthcare company that is making significant strides toward reducing its carbon footprint through “green” manufacturing. A company’s carbon footprint is a measure of its environmental impact that is determined by calculating the greenhouse gases emitted during sourcing, production, use, and disposal of the company’s products, stated in terms of equivalent tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). In-house operations, including manufacturing and laboratories in GSK’s pharmaceutical, vaccine, and consumer health divisions, accounted for approximately 11% of the company’s carbon footprint in 2014, says the company. GSK is well on its way to meeting ambitious goals it set to reduce energy and water use, as well as waste, in its operations and across its value chain, in addition to its long-term goal of being carbon-neutral (i.e., removing as much CO2 from the environment as it emits) by 2050. David Lynch, who heads up environment, health and safety and engineering for GSK’s global manufacturing and supply at GSK, spoke with Pharmaceutical Technology about some of the projects GSK has undertaken in the manufacturing area to achieve its sustainability goals. 

Green manufacturingPharmTech: What do you see as the key components of a ‘green manufacturing’ program, particularly looking at your direct operations and your own facilities? 

Lynch (GSK): Reducing energy, water, and waste in direct operations are important elements of a green manufacturing program. GSK Manufacturing (GMS) has reduced energy consumption by 47% and water consumption by over 55% since 2001. Progress has been achieved by a number of significant initiatives focused on our processes, utility infrastructure, and buildings, where a significant proportion of consumption resides.  We use lean sigma, operational excellence, and standard work techniques to ensure that a consistent, efficient procedure is identified and locked in for routine operation. By standardizing at the level of best performance, savings are achieved and propagated by sharing them as best practice.

We are investing in energy efficiency, cleaner energy generation (combined heat and power), renewable energy (solar and wind), using waste for energy, and reducing the amount of coal we consume by 60%. We have installed wind turbines at our Barnard Castle (UK), Irvine (Scotland), and Cork (Ireland) sites. We have installed 13 combined heat and power, natural-gas engines in the UK and Europe. We are in the process of designing and building a biomass steam-raising plant in Ireland.

The lessons learned from improving the efficiency of our existing factories are now being embedded in any new facilities; we conduct rigorous, multi-discipline, sustainability reviews of new designs before the investment is approved. The scope of such reviews includes water, waste, sustainable materials of construction, energy efficient lighting, air conditioning motors, and heat and cooling systems, for example.

Reducing wastePharmTech: What have you identified as the most significant areas of waste in pharmaceutical manufacturing, and how are you reducing waste?

Lynch (GSK): We categorize waste into hazardous and non-hazardous waste. In pharmaceutical manufacturing (as opposed to the manufacturing of consumer healthcare products), management of hazardous waste is the biggest challenge. For small molecules, the principal waste is hazardous organic solvents. That said, because solvents are so valuable, we try to recycle and reuse as much of the solvent as we can. Where we can’t either recycle or reuse, we have implemented projects to incinerate waste solvent to generate energy at our factories, most notably in Singapore and at Cork in Ireland.

Larger molecules don’t tend to use large amounts of hazardous solvents, so we take other approaches to recycling any waste generated. For example, we have received regulatory approval to compost 1500 tonnes per year of the egg waste we generate from manufacturing flu vaccines at our Sainte Foy site in Canada. Instead of sending it to landfill, the egg waste will be mixed with other green waste and sold as compost.

In GSK overall (i.e., our pharmaceutical, vaccine and consumer health operations),  our goal is to halve operational (i.e., non-hazardous and hazardous) waste by 2020. We are doing this by adopting four simple steps to eliminate, reuse, recycle, and generate energy from waste-in that order of priority. We are making steady progress. In 2014, we generated 159,000 tonnes of waste from our operations, which was 4% less than in 2013 and 11% less than 2010, and half of our manufacturing sites and major R&D sites are now sending no waste to landfill.

The proportion of waste that is recycled or disposed of with a positive benefit has also increased from 71% in 2010 to 74% in 2014. We continually look for innovative ways to reduce and recycle waste at other sites around the world in conjunction with our waste management partners. For example, we send packaging waste from our Poznan site in Poland to make a construction material for waterproof flooring.

PharmTech: What are some of the best practices you use to reduce hazardous waste?

Lynch (GSK): Since 2010, six of our pharmaceutical manufacturing sites have recycled and re-used 126,000 tonnes of organic solvents. Specifically, at our Jurong, Singapore site, we have installed boilers that will burn up to 10,000 tonnes per year of waste solvent emanating from both the Jurong site and the nearby Quality Road site. This process generates steam that is used to generate chilled water for use in the air conditioning systems at the Jurong site. This initiative has enabled Jurong to achieve a 50% reduction in hazardous waste. In addition to the environmental benefits, this project has also helped us build trust and has further enhanced our reputation in Singapore. At the 2014, 17th Singapore Environment Achievement Award (SEAA), organized by the Singapore Environment Council, the Jurong site won two prestigious manufacturing awards.

Perhaps the most impact has been achieved by our Quality Road site. At one time, 24% of its waste was hazardous, but this level has now been reduced to < 4% with an in-house treatment using photo-oxidation technology to reduce the high levels of chemical oxygen demand (COD) and phenol.  This technology reduces COD by 40% and thus contributes towards a greener manufacturing process.



Saving waterPharmTech: What are some ways you have reduced water usage?

Lynch (GSK): We cut operational water use by 20% from 2010 to 2014. In 2014, we audited four of our highest water use sites; two in India, and one in Italy, and Singapore, respectively.  We cut water use at these sites by repairing leaks, investing in efficient equipment, and introducing more water-efficient cleaning procedures.

Water consumption is just one dimension of water impact. We also consider aspects such as water scarcity and local water quality, which includes the release of pharmaceuticals from our operations.  Site environmental, health, and safety (EHS) audits seek assurance on governance, management systems, and performance, which includes an assessment of wastewater management practices. Where performance gaps are identified, we work with suppliers on improvement programs. We monitor existing suppliers via our team of relationship managers and through our Responsible Procurement Audit program.

More than 80% of the water used across our value chain is in producing raw materials, and much of this is from agricultural produce such as milk, sugars, and eggs. We partnered with TERI, a sustainable development non-governmental organization in India, to develop a water diagnostic tool to identify opportunities for suppliers to reduce their water impact. In 2014, we piloted the tool to explore ways to reduce water use for suppliers facing the highest water stress.  

Advanced manufacturing technologiesPharmTech: How is GSK using advanced manufacturing technologies to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing operations?

Lynch (GSK): A manufacturing technology roadmap was developed and approved by the GSK board in 2013 with the aim of enhancing product quality, while also making our medicines more accessible to patients anywhere in the world, in cheaper and greener ways. A team to seek, incubate, and commercialize advanced manufacturing technologies (AMT) was formed in 2014 to deliver this aim. Working with our product development and manufacturing organizations and across GSK, this team is enabling the application of advanced technologies to commercial processes.

Four specific areas of the roadmap that have a significant impact in reducing the environmental impact of our processes are: synthetic biochemistry, chemical catalysis, continuous processing, and process analytics and control. Intensifying processes allows us to reduce solvent and material use, increase quality and yield of our products, and reduce the size of buildings and energy used in manufacturing.

For example, our API manufacturing plant at Quality Road in Singapore replaced the chemical process used to manufacture the antibiotic, amoxicillin, with a process that uses a biology-based technology using enzymes.  The enzymatic process replaces organic solvents with water, so almost 80% of the chemical waste associated with older chemical processes has been removed. The new process helped us to reduce our amoxicillin value chain carbon footprint by up to 12%. This sustainable approach to the manufacture of amoxicillin is consistent with GSK’s commitment, in partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board, to improve the efficiency of pharmaceutical and fine chemical manufacture in Singapore. In June 2015, we announced we would be investing an additional £38M (S$77M) in the Quality Road manufacturing plant in Singapore, building on its initial investment of S$60M committed in 2012.

PharmTech: What role do you expect continuous manufacturing to play in ‘greening’ pharma manufacturing?

Lynch (GSK): With continuous manufacturing, less is more. A reactor is much smaller but we can do it much more quickly, in smaller reactors based on flow through a pipe. This is designed to precisely control the chemistry so that by the time the chemicals leave the tube, the product is made. Because production is continuous, we don’t need to stop, cool, or clean the reactor, eliminating losses to the local environment and reducing waste. By using this approach, tiny flows of 1 to 200 mL per minute can be as productive as a 4000-L traditional reactor if operated 24 hours a day for 300 days a year.

In October 2014, we announced an investment of $27M (S$38.5M) for a continuous manufacturing facility in Jurong, which produces one of GSK’s key APIs. With the new technology, a plant of only about 100 m2 is required, compared to the 900-m2 facility needed for current methods. In the future, we aim to apply this technology to allow us to make products to demand, allowing us to reduce inventory and waste in our supply chains.

Article DetailsPharmaceutical Technology
Vol. 40, No. 1
Pages: 36–38

When referring to this article, please cite it as J. Markarian, "Reducing the Environmental Impact of Manufacturing," Pharmaceutical Technology 40 (1) 2016.