Recycle solvents for big emissions cut

Big pharma case studies demonstrate drastic emission cuts to air, water and soil through solvent recycling, say Michael Raymond and colleagues from Rowan University. They identify solvents as "by far" the biggest contributors to pharma-related emissions.

In quantifying the benefits of reuse versus manufacturing from scratch, they find that recycling uses less energy in addition to providing the emissions cutback, according to Environmental Health News. Within the pharma plant, however, those benefits are less clear because total solvent emissions are underestimated, they say.

The researchers tallied the energy and materials used, as well as the emissions for drugs made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer and Novartis. Their analysis extended to solvent production by external sources. They made comparisons using scenarios that included and excluded solvent reduction and recycling.

Their main finding: cutting back on fresh solvent or burning less solvent waste can reduce emissions by more than 90 percent. They found also that some solvents have "a much greater impact" than others. The widely used tetrahydrofuran, for example, requires 10 times more water use in-plant and accounts for more energy use than all other solvents tested.

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