Sustainability: A Brief Guide for Students in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Courses

pharmaceutical manufacturing diploma

Sustainability is an important issue and one that the pharmaceutical industry is taking seriously. For pharmaceutical manufacturers, sustainability presents significant challenges. For example, pharmaceutical manufacturing tends to consume a lot of energy and produce quite a bit of waste. At the same time, because the pharmaceutical industry is tightly regulated, manufacturers must make sure that any sustainability measures they adopt are compliant with regulations.

As a result, pharmaceutical manufacturers need to be creative when it comes to sustainability. Here’s a look at some of the approaches the industry is taking.

Reducing Energy Consumption Helps the Planet and Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

Energy consumption is a top concern for drug makers because pharmaceutical manufacturing is an energy-intensive process. For example, manufacturing plants need to maintain optimal air quality and air flow in order to comply with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). To do this, they rely on high-powered HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, which significantly drive up energy consumption.

Because of the need for air quality controls, pharmaceutical plants tend to consume a lot of energy
Because of the need for air quality controls, pharmaceutical plants tend to consume a lot of energy

One way the pharmaceutical industry is responding to this challenge is through active energy management. Active energy management is an approach to energy conservation that begins with collecting data about how much energy a manufacturer consumes, identifying potential areas of improvement, and optimizing energy use through automated systems. Active energy management can help manufacturers reduce energy waste, which not only benefits the environment but also leads to cost savings for the company.

Students in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Courses Can Keep an Eye on Packaging Trends

Packaging is another difficult sustainability issue that the pharmaceutical industry is tackling. In your pharmaceutical manufacturing courses you will learn about issues related to pharmaceutical packaging, which, unlike in many other industries, is tightly regulated for safety reasons. That tight regulation makes it a challenge for manufacturers to reduce packaging waste.

For example, tablets and pills are commonly packaged in blister packs. A blister pack has many advantages, including extending the shelf life of a pharmaceutical product since it seals out oxygen. Blister packs also help patients remember when to take their medications because individual pills or tablets can be labelled with days of the week. However, because blister packs are made from a combination of foil and plastic, they are usually non-recyclable. Creating a sustainable blister pack is a challenge given that it is difficult to find materials that will keep out oxygen while also being sustainable. However, advances on this front have been made in recent years. For example, blister packs that incorporate recyclable paperboard and include minimal foil and plastic are now finding their way to pharmacy shelves.

Blister packs have safety advantages, but making them sustainable is a challenge
Blister packs have safety advantages, but making them sustainable is a challenge

Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Have an Important Role to Play in Reducing Hazardous Waste

Pharmaceutical manufacturing plants can produce hazardous waste, such as manufacturing by-products, out-of-specification pharmaceuticals, and fluids used to clean and sanitize manufacturing equipment. The waste from pharmaceutical manufacturing can present challenges for the environment. If waste from pharmaceutical facilities gets into fresh water sources, for instance, then drinking water and water used for agricultural irrigation can become contaminated.

Because of these risks, there is growing discussion about introducing stricter environmental regulations for pharmaceutical waste. As part of your pharmaceutical manufacturing program, you will learn about current GMP. While GMP does not yet include environmental standards, it does include standards for ensuring manufacturing facilities have proper facilities and processes for the disposal of hazardous waste. By understanding how hazardous waste should be properly disposed of, you can contribute to making pharmaceutical manufacturing more sustainable.

Are you interested in a career in the pharmaceutical industry?

Contact the Toronto Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology to learn more about our pharmaceutical manufacturing diploma.

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