Waste and recycling

Waste material contains valuable raw materials that can be reused in the production stream, which is why we consider it highly important to prevent or recycle as much of our waste as possible.

Our principles

Preventing, recycling and disposing waste

We work to minimize the environmental impacts of our waste as far as possible and limit the loss of raw materials. This means that we first attempt to prevent waste. However, this not always being feasible, we seek to recycle as much of our waste as possible. Waste that cannot be recycled is discarded in an environmentally sustainable manner in line with the most stringent waste disposal standards.

Waste management at Group and site levels

Waste management is part of our Group-wide -certified environmental management system. The Group function Environment, Health, Safety, , Quality (EQ), which is in charge of environmental stewardship, bears overall responsibility for waste management. As well as undergoing external certification, we also conduct internal Corporate Environment, Health and Safety audits to review our waste management approach and programs. We regularly inform and educate our local managers and site directors on various waste disposal issues in an effort to ensure Group-wide with our environmental standards.

Our Group-wide EHS standard “Waste Management” provides a consistent framework for waste management across all our sites, defining organizational structures and minimum requirements. In line with this standard, all facilities document their waste by type and quantity, reporting this data to EQ.

The Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Waste Scoring System

We use several methods for recycling and disposing of waste. In an attempt to better manage our various waste streams, in 2016 we developed the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Waste Scoring System, which is based on a five-level waste hierarchy:

  1. Waste prevention
  2. Materials recycling
  3. Waste-to-energy
  4. Thermal disposal
  5. Landfill

In terms of the resource footprint of the waste, it progressively worsens from level one through level five. Waste prevention is the best, most desired form of waste management as it avoids using raw materials and prevents negative environmental impacts. Materials recycling allows raw materials contained in the waste to be recovered. Depending on the waste type, this process saves significant quantities of raw materials and energy even though it somewhat reduces product quality (downcycling). Waste-to-energy is the conversion of non-recyclable waste materials into usable heat, electricity, or fuel through a variety of processes. Power generation through waste incineration plants, which reduce the use of fossil fuels, is a perfect example. Waste for disposal is either incinerated or sent to landfills, making it impossible to recover raw materials.

Each individual type of waste – plastic, paper, metal, glass, hazardous waste, etc. – requires individual evaluation.

Waste Score as a performance indicator

In 2016, we created the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Waste Score to help us quantify the resource conservation target for our waste streams and compare the amount of waste our sites are producing. Under this system, each site's waste is allocated a score for each of the five steps of the waste hierarchy. This score is then multiplied by the percentage that results from dividing the waste quantity of the given disposal method by the waste quantity. The sum of the scores of each level provides our total Waste Score.

In 2017, we plan on using this system to assess waste disposal Group-wide. This assessment will help us define a target for the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Waste Score and gauge the progress of our waste management efforts.

Responsibility for entire waste disposal process

As a generator of waste, we are responsible for the final disposal of our waste products and therefore choose our service providers with the utmost care, contractually stipulating disposal requirements. Each of our vendors must be able to prove that they have properly discarded our waste. We conduct regular audits to ensure that our waste is disposed of in an appropriate fashion, especially in the case of hazardous substances.


Decline in waste generated

The amount of waste we produced in 2016 dropped to 254 metric kilotons, versus 317 metric kilotons in 2015. This sharp decrease is primarily attributable to lower quantities of construction and demolition waste, which continued to account for the majority of our total waste – 30% in 2016 and 49% in 2015. In particular, the remodeling of our Group headquarters in Darmstadt has generated large quantities of such waste material.

Employees help separate trash

At our site in Molsheim, France, we implemented a recycling system over five years ago and have been continuously refining it ever since. This facility performs function testing and lab tests that regularly produce large quantities of waste. In response, our local EHS officers have developed a trash separation system, conducted training and enhanced the necessary processes. Today, employees at this site separate up to ten different types of waste, allowing more than five metric tons of plastic to be recycled per year.

60% less solvent used

In the 2015-2016 period, our site in Shizuoka, Japan started using special plastic liners in our containers for specialty chemicals. This change considerably reduced the required amount of an acetic ester derivative that had previously been utilized as a solvent to clean the containers. As a result, this facility is saving 70 metric tons of this solvent per year, representing a 60% reduction of the acetic ester derivative used for washing processes at this site.

Shizuoka reduces filter waste

In 2015, we switched the multi-step filter process for photoresists at our Shizuoka site in Japan to a single-step process. Instead of requiring several filters, the process now uses only one, thus decreasing filter waste by 70%. In 2016, we introduced the single-filter process at our facilities in Hsinchu, Taiwan, and Suzhou, China, where we eliminated 50% of our filter waste at each site. We are currently investigating whether we can implement the new filter process at other facilities as well.

Recycling process saves on solvent

At our facility in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, we implemented a recycling process for the solvent diisopentyl ether in 2012, which we have since worked to continuously improve. Thanks to this effort, we recycled 88% of the solvent used in 2016. Within four years, we thus saved approximately 200 metric tons of solvent waste and more than € 2 million. We have introduced a similar recycling process at Kaohsiung for the solvents acetone and pentane. 

ISO 14001
This international environmental management standard sets globally recognized requirements for an environmental management system.
This term stands for all necessary measures and governance activities to detect, analyze, handle, and mitigate security- and crime-based threats to the company. This helps to protect employees as well as the tangible and intangible assets of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.
Environment, Health and Safety describes environmental management, health protection and occupational safety throughout the company.
Adherence to laws and regulations as well as to voluntary codices that are internal to the Group. Compliance is a component of diligent corporate governance.