The Pharmaceutical industry and the Growing Importance of Sustainability

Increasing Focus on Sustainability

The world’s population is predicted to exceed 9 billion by 2050, with growth in developing economies expected to triple global resource consumption, according to United Nations. As such, this puts increasing pressure on process industries, such as food, beverages, personal care, pharmaceuticals plus many more, who will be forced to compete for finite resources to meet the ever-growing demand.pharmaceutical industry and pigging

Therefore, to tackle this issue, an increasing number of industries are finding sustainability to be a key driver of long-term revenue growth. As such, sustainability has become an essential part of the manufacturing process for the majority of industries.

Sustainability has many different definitions, however, it generally refers to using the absolute minimum of non-renewable resources and not harming the planet. Sustainability is often mentioned alongside corporate social responsibility, as part of a broader commitment.

Pharmaceutical Industry – An Overview

While sustainability is a key issue for all industries, this blog article will focus particularly on the importance of sustainability for the pharmaceutical industry. As an overview, the pharmaceutical sector is one of the biggest and most important industries in the world. It’s responsible for researching, developing, producing and later marketing pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines, and treatments for everything from cancer, cystic fibrosis and Parkinson’s disease to common antibiotics and pain relief medicines.

The industry was worth $934.8 billion in 2017. This figure is expected to rise to 1170 billion in 2021, growing at 5.8% per annum according to a report conducted by The Business Research Company.

So, in this large and highly important industry how important is sustainability?

Increasing Focus on Sustainability

In recent years, the pharmaceutical industry has done a lot to reduce its impact on the environment and in the process, reduce costs.

In pharmaceutical production, the processes and chemicals used are often toxic, costly to dispose of and can generate a significant amount of waste. As such, they represent a severe threat to the environment and the sustainability of the industry.

At the same time, the industry is heavily reliant on water, as it is used in the formulation and production of all pharmaceutical products. Water is now considered a finite resource, as it is running out in some areas and will become more and more expensive. Therefore, companies and consumers should use it sparingly.

In the production of pharmaceuticals, large volumes of water are often needed for production and cleaning. Therefore, an increasing number of companies are taking a proactive approach to managing sustainability and have targets in place to reduce their waste and water usage.

Pledges to Tackle Sustainability

In an attempt to reduce the impact of their activities and products on the environment, many pharmaceutical companies are looking at ways they can produce their products more efficiently and in a sustainable way.pharmaceutical industry and pigging

Many firms have made public pledges towards sustainability and have invested in green chemistry and production technologies such as ‘pigging’ to help meet their goals.

In 2015 companies including Johnson & Johnson, Patheon, Genentech, and Novartis signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge and demonstrated their commitment to sustainability by agreeing to reduce their carbon or greenhouse gas emissions, water use, waste to landfill, and increasing the use of renewable energy.

Reducing Energy Usage in Pharmaceutical Production

In recent years in pharmaceutical production, the demand for more personalised products has gained momentum. This is largely being fuelled by the decline of blockbuster drugs, the rise of biologics and the continued growth in generic drugs.

The increasing demand for personalisation has meant that processing equipment needs to be stopped often for small tweaks, and changeovers. The more changeovers there are, the more downtime there is which means time not producing a product, which means a decline in productivity.

At the same time, the more changeovers there are equates to additional energy which poses a challenge on the sustainability front. Therefore, this has forced many manufacturers to assess their current operation and identify opportunities for improvements in efficiencies and energy savings.

Pharmaceutical Industry and the Role of Pigging Technology

Many pharmaceutical companies are finding that fully sustainable product recovery technologies such as pigging can improve efficiency, minimise costs and improve their bottom line.

Pigging refers to the process which uses a specially designed projectile (the ‘pig’) to recover residual liquid product that would otherwise go to waste. By recovering up to 99.5% of the residual product from the line, pigging efficiently cleans the pipeline at the same time. The HPS hygienic pig has a diameter slightly larger than the pipelines and it is forced through the pipeline by water, other liquid, compressed air or gas or even the product being processed.

Pigging systems are becoming more and more commonplace in production facilities throughout the world. That’s because the benefits of pigging are substantial.

Pigging Recovers Valuable Productenvironmental sustainability and pigging systems

In pharmaceutical production, the products being processed are often expensive and highly valuable ingredients. Therefore, manufacturers have a lot to gain when processing liquids from recovering as much product from the pipelines during the production process as possible.

Because pigging enables manufacturers to reclaim the product residue from the pipelines, it increases product yield significantly. The product recovered is perfectly usable, saleable product, which can even be reclaimed from challenging areas of the pipeline such as 1.5D 90-degree bends.

By recovering practically all of the product from the pipeline, pigging increases efficiency, improves plant capacity and also means higher profits. There are also fewer costs involved as the reduction in waste translates into decreased cleaning chemicals, effluent, and waste handling costs. In this way, pigging has a positive impact on the environment.

Reduced Water Usage with Pigging

Implementing a pigging system can also help pharmaceutical manufacturers meet their water conservation targets.

Clean-in-place (CIP) is often used in hygiene-critical industries such as food, beverage, and pharmaceuticals. A typical CIP process is often intensive and uses large amounts of water, cleaning chemicals and resources. However, pigging before CIP delivers significant gains in operating efficiency and productivity.

That’s because incorporating the pigging process into production reduces cycle times. Because most of the product has been removed by the HPS pig, there’s no requirement for the initial flush out in the first part of the CIP cycle. This reduces water usage considerably.

At the same time, as pigging cleans the lines so efficiently, this reduces cleaning times and downtime, speeds up changeovers and reduces cross-contamination risks.

Limitations of Pigging in Pharmaceutical Production

While pigging can deliver a wide range of benefits to pharmaceutical companies, it does have its limitations. For example, it is (currently) not possible to pig fine powders, only liquids. Some pharmaceutical standards may mean that, although being hygienic to FDA standards, pigging systems can only be used for some stages of pharmaceutical production, but not all. It depends on the standards. Also, the minimum pipeline size suitable for pigging is usually one inch – smaller sizes and flexible tubes can be limited with regards to pigging.

Find Out More

For pharmaceutical companies looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact, improve their bottom line and reduce costs, a pigging system could well be the answer.

So, if you process pharmaceuticals and are interested in bringing the benefits of pigging to your business – please fill out the short form below and one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members will be in touch.

Alternatively, if you are just at the research stage of pigging, make sure you check out our pigging system resources page and please get back to us with any questions.

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