We consider take-back concepts as well as environmentally sustainable utilization and disposal of chemicals and packaging to be an integral part of our corporate responsibility. By taking back used products and packaging, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and its customers are jointly contributing to reducing the environmental impact of our products and services. This plays an important role for us at the international level as well; we are promoting this concept particularly in emerging markets.
More than 20 years ago, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany set up its own system In Germany and several other countries in order to dispose of used packaging and chemicals in a safe and environmentally sustainable manner. Called Retrologistik®, this is a well-established service that customers appreciate highly.
In 2010, we entered into a strategic alliance with the German Association for International Cooperation (), called Environmentally Sound Management of Chemical Waste in South East Asia. This alliance aims to establish the retrologistics concept in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand in order to boost environmental awareness there as well as change how hazardous materials are handled. The transfer of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany technology and knowledge plays a crucial role here. With this project, we want to build knowledge and competencies for the environmentally sustainable storage of chemicals; we also want to help our project partners to properly classify and transport the resulting waste, as well as recycle or dispose of it. Originally scheduled to continue until 2012, the joint Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and GIZ project in Southeast Asia has been extended until summer 2013.
After three years, the strategic alliance has improved training, auditing and implementation capacity in the respective countries; it has increased the number of users who handle and dispose of their chemicals in an environmentally sustainable manner, and has boosted the number of qualified waste disposal firms.
Within the project, informational and training materials were developed and made available in the respective national languages of each country. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and the GIZ have jointly trained more than 1,000 people as trainers, including employees of universities (Thailand) and of governmental organizations (such as the Department of Science and Technology of the Philippines as well as the Indonesia State Ministry of Environment). The trainers then act as multipliers, passing on the knowledge acquired to their institutions and countries. To date, the trained universities in Thailand have now properly disposed of eight tons of lab waste, and government labs in the Philippines have properly disposed of two tons of chemicals via a project partner.
Furthermore, lab chemicals users were trained on how to properly handle chemicals, such as when storing or disposing of them; several state-owned labs were also equipped as “model labs” to demonstrate responsible, environmentally sustainable chemical management.
This strategic alliance furthermore supports select companies in the disposal industry. For example, a washing plant for empty chemicals bottles that operates according to European standards was built in the industrial park in Kota Jababeka. This plant can be used by at least 150 companies. Great progress has also been made in implementing the retrologisitics concept in the Philippines especially for photometric cuvette tests. In the region of Luzon, for instance, 25 companies are already participating in the system. To date, 3,000 test sets have been safely disposed of.
The project is being expanded to include India in order to establish a market-oriented take-back and disposal system. Founded on industry-wide self-regulation on handling hazardous waste and certified by the relevant regulatory agencies, this system is intended to be available to the entire market, After being successfully established in two pilot regions, the system is to be rolled out nationwide.
Ech2o™: Recycling program for water purification cartridges
The Lab Water business field of the life science tools division has developed the ech2o program for water purification cartridges. The program enables our customers to send back their cartridges to be recycled and thus to avoid the need for traditional disposal methods such as land fill dumping or incineration. A life cycle assessment has revealed that this can reduce the environmental impact of the cartridges by 10%-15%. More than 300 customers are already taking advantage of the program.
Biopharma take-back and recycling program
Single-use products are increasingly playing a role in the biopharmaceutical industry. Improvements in disposing of these products are a challenging task owing to a lack of recycling infrastructure, the material mix of the products, and the specific requirements for handling biologically hazardous residues. As one of the leading suppliers of products for the life science industry, the life science tools division and five customers jointly launched a take-back program in the United States in 2012.
The pilot project showed that recycling can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 14% in comparison to traditional disposal methods, as confirmed by an end-of-life life cycle assessment. During the product development phase, the life science tools division takes into account obstacles to recycling identified in the course of the pilot project. This allows them to constantly improve the recycling potential of new products through measures such as simplified disassembly, or by increasing the percentage of recyclable materials.
For Ech2o and the biopharma program, the life science tools division was recognized in May 2012 with the Boston Business Journal Green Business Award and in November 2012 with the MassRecycle Business Innovation Award.