Organic waste management is an important function in pharmaceutical manufacturing companies. Organic waste refers to a material that is biodegradable. The material may be broken down by microorganisms over time or they may just disintegrate due to the effect of weather conditions. In pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, organic waste may arise from materials that can no longer be used in manufacturing processes or from such other daily non-manufacturing activities as sanitation and food supply.
Organic waste is of different forms such as expired products, packaging materials, contaminated pieces of clothing, manufacturing process waste, strips, absorbents, spill cleanup material, among others. Some of the waste materials may be hazardous to humans, animals, and the general environment of the pharmaceutical manufacturing companies.
As you consider how to manage organic waste from pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, it is important that you observe the legal and regulatory framework applicable in the country and state of your operation. Otherwise, there are several strategies you can use to manage such organic waste.
Top 10 strategies On how Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Companies Can Manage Organic Waste:
This strategy is mainly recommended for treating liquid organic wastes. It involves applying strong oxidants such as chlorine compounds, ammonium salts, aldehydes, and phenol compounds to liquid wastes so as to kill or inactivate pathogens.
The efficiency of this method is dependent on a number of factors such as the type and quantity of the chemical applied the extent and length of time the disinfectant has been in contact with the organic waste.
Deep Burial/Secure Land Filling:
The use of this strategy is often in compliance with the rules and regulations of a particular state or city. It involves pre-preparing a deep burial site, otherwise called a landfill, in a place that is not prone to floods or erosion. You may dig the site to create a pit or a trench of an appropriate depth. A good site is a place where the soil is relatively impermeable and free from inhabitants or wells.
The risk of surface water contamination should be quite remote in the area. It is also important to consider a place with adequate security. This strategy is recommended for the disposal of solid organic waste such as discarded medicines, cytotoxic drugs, solid chemical wastes, and incineration ash.
The procedure is that every time the organic waste is deposited in the landfill, a layer of about 10cm of soil should be added to cover the waste. The soil cover prevents vermin such as mice or rats from accessing the organic waste. Plastic lining material can be used to contain leachate.
It is also advisable that the deposited waste is compacted so as to increase its density and stability. Landfills are often a source of unwanted gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. The gases may kill surface vegetation, and cause odour or greenhouse problems. These problems can be solved by installing a gas extraction system in the landfill. Once the gas is out, it may be blown off or burnt in a gas engine to generate electric power.
This strategy is recommended for managing solid organic waste. It involves subjecting the waste to high temperatures that convert the waste material into residue in the form of ash and gas. This process reduces the volume of solid waste to about 20 or 30 percent of its original volume. Incineration and other similar systems involving the use of high temperatures to convert waste are referred to as “thermal treatment”.
Incineration can be used both on small and large-scale waste management. It is not recommended for large quantities of reactive chemical wastes, wastes mercury or cadmium, wastes treated with halogenated chemicals, or radiographic wastes among others that pose danger. Ash from the incinerators should be disposed of safely in a secure landfill.
Incineration as a method of waste management may be controversial because of potentially hazardous gas emissions.
Use of Sewers and Watercourses:
This strategy can be used to manage liquid pharmaceuticals such as syrups and intravenous fluids. It involves diluting the liquids with water and flushing them into sewers or rivers. This should be done in small quantities over some time so as to prevent any possible hazardous effect on public health and on the general environment.
You should also ensure that the organic waste is properly diluted. If the sewers are in a state of disrepair or are damaged, then you can seek the help of a hydrologist or a sanitary engineer.
This strategy of organic waste management is also called waste reduction. It involves making efforts to prevent the occurrence of waste material. You will have to consider methods of waste avoidance such as product reuse, preferring to repair damaged items over buying new ones, designing products to be made from reusable organic materials (such as making carrier bags using cotton instead of plastic), discouraging the use of disposable materials, designing products in such a way as to maintain their purpose with the use of less material.
This strategy entails encouraging repeat use of a product, either for the same or different purposes. This reduces the need for reprocessing and discarding of a material when its initial use is over. An opportunity to reuse a product in the same state (such as in the case of returnable pallets, second-hand clothes, and the use of an empty container for storage) puts you in a better position as far as waste management is concerned. This strategy helps to save further energy and material consumption because there is no need for elaborate treatment or processing as happens in other procedures such as recycling.
This is an organic waste management strategy involving the treatment and reprocessing of waste materials that had been discarded. This strategy is aimed at making the waste materials subsequently reusable either for their previous purpose or for a different purpose. This strategy saves the environment because it does not demand the use of new materials.
This strategy may come in handy if a suitable incinerator is not available. The use of this strategy should be as per the manufacturer’s recommendation, and it is usually followed by the use of a landfill. It is advisable that this strategy is used under strict instruction by a chemical expert. This is because the process of chemical inactivation is tedious and it consumes a lot of time.
Also, the stock of the chemicals required for treatment must be made available throughout the process. It is practical to use this strategy only for the disposal of small quantities of antineoplastic drugs. Under this scenario, success is only realized after repeated use of the strategy. Otherwise, with large quantities of antineoplastic drugs, say over 50 kgs, the use of chemical decomposition is not practical.
The aim of this strategy is to separate pharmaceutical wastes that are categorized as controlled and other hazardous non-pharmaceutical wastes that might have been put together with the pharmaceuticals. It then becomes easy to plan for the proper handling and disposal method for each category of waste.
The pharmaceutical wastes can be further sorted into different categories based on their dosage form such as capsules, powders, solutions, syrups, tablets, and suppositories. Some of the suggested subcategories include non-pharmaceutical useful materials, useful pharmaceuticals, and chemicals.
The sorting process entails the following steps:
a. Identify each item accurately. b. Make a decision on whether the item is usable or not. c. If it is usable, then leave the packaging intact. d. If it is not usable, then decide on the best method of sorting and disposal. e. Leave boxes and packages intact until they reach their location.
Burning in Open Containers:
Some organic pharmaceutical wastes such as paper and cardboard packaging may be burned in open containers. However, care should be taken to ensure that pharmaceutical wastes such as Polyvinyl chloride, which releases toxic pollutants into the air, are not burned. It is important to note that burning as a method of waste disposal is not advocated for pharmaceutical waste. But since it is not frequently used, it is recommended only for very small quantities of organic pharmaceutical waste.
Although the management of organic waste in pharmaceutical manufacturing companies is supported by the continuous development of innovative strategies, policy makers in this sector face several challenges. To succeed in this venture, there is a need to use an interdisciplinary approach that may involve input of skills from pharmacy, nursing, environmental management, infection control, quality assurance, risk management, and other relevant areas.
It is increasingly becoming a complex task because research is giving rise to new waste classifications and new management strategies are launched continuously. On the other hand, managers are encountering pressure to adopt cost-effective strategies and implement new strategies that ensure proper organic waste management.
However, managers have to exercise due caution while choosing the right strategy. This is because the level of risk involved in the management of waste in this sector is certainly high.