Envirowise, which offers a government funded confidential advice service to UK businesses, is urging pharmaceutical companies to consider reducing hazardous waste at its source, rather than merely addressing the issue later down the line.
"Time invested now in identifying the best techniques to cut hazardous waste at source could spell financial rewards over the longer term," said the organisation.
Almost 200 additional materials have been classified as hazardous since the implementation of the Hazardous Waste Regulation in the UK in July 2005. However, landfill availability for hazardous waste in the UK is increasingly scarce, as are incineration sites. Firms that end up using these methods of disposal therefore often end up paying a transport premium, in addition to the increasing cost of landfill.
Envirowise have recommended several areas chemical and pharmaceutical companies can examine in order to optimise their processes and tackle their hazardous waste in the most optimal way.
Vessel design is highlighted, and businesses are encouraged to ensure that any new or replacement vessels installed facilitate cleaning-in-place and automated charging/emptying. The company also emphasise the importance of solvent management - either by implementing a solvent management plan, or merely by monitoring for losses, faulty equipment or poor operator service in order to combat unnecessary solvent consumption at the outset.
Similarly, water management is also an issue raised by the company.
"A large proportion of hazardous waste leaving a manufacturing site may be in solution," say the company, "meaning the management of water, and its role as solvent, reagent, dilutent or washing medium is crucial."
The organisation recommends careful water management, as well as improved cleaning practices, production scheduling and efficient vessel design to help tackle the problem.
Another factor highlighted by Envirowise is process optimisation - simply establishing where the greatest losses are occurring in the manufacturing process could reveal opportunities for reducing or recycling solvents. Measures to reduce the risk of spillages are also recommended.
"Many larger companies will already be following improvement programmes covering some of these areas, as part of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) regulations," said Geoff Leaver, chemicals specialist at Envirowise.
"But smaller companies too could see the benefits of reducing hazardous waste at source and reducing their overall waste management costs in the longer term."
The new REACH guidelines, which were formally adopted in December 2006, lay out a framework for assessing the environmental and health risks of chemicals. The regulations state that it is up to each individual company to demonstrate the safety of its products, and could therefore involve manufacturers substituting hazardous chemicals in their products or processes with safer ones.