The pharmaceutical industry has thrown itself into environmental protection in the last years, becoming one of the most aware sectors regarding the protection of ecosystems and natural resources supplied by the planet. The medical treatment industry needs to make use of raw materials from natural origin in order to develop its activity, from fresh water to plants and animal species which enable to carry out studies that promote the creation of new medicines aimed to palliate diseases in a more effective way. Therefore, natural environment gains special relevance for the development of the daily activity regarding this sector.

The pharmaceutical and cosmetology fields are, together with the food industry, one of the strictest areas concerning security measures and healthcare specifications. This is because their products are intended for human beings and their direct use, and any sign of contamination may entail high losses both at the economic and environmental level. Hence the existence of high control mechanisms in all manufacturing processes, and the special emphasis laid upon efficiency levels.

Measures to improve energy efficiency

The improvement of efficiency in each step of the manufacture of medicines, besides guaranteeing higher profits at the economic level, will ensure the reduction both of emissions and air pollution agents into the atmosphere, as well as water consumption and raw materials, equally important.

In 2015, the Spanish Federation of Technology Companies (FENIN, by its Spanish acronym), representative of more than 80% of the Spanish turnover, designed the Environmental Responsibility Guide for the Healthcare Technology Sector in order to foster and promote environmental responsibility in the healthcare industry. This guide expects to help companies related to the industry in valuing the implication the development of their activity has towards the environment, providing standards to protect the natural environment by reducing the use of raw materials and minimising residues and gas emissions, damaging agents for the human being’s health as well as for the environment.

This guide is adapted to the legal framework on Environmental Responsibility, and enables pharmaceutical companies to feature a protocol of action, as well as to be aware of the environmental risks and the possible consequences derived from their actions, being able to fulfil the necessary corrections in the initial stages of each project.

Minimising the environmental impact

The pharmaceutical industry is committed to reduce the impact of its activity on the environment in each and every phase of the useful life of its products, and it is expected that for the year 2030, companies will strictly comply with the care of the four strategic areas that lie at the core of environmental impact:

  • Environmental sustainability management
  • Energy and climate
  • Water and micro-pollutants
  • Residues and their management

It is intended that environmental protection will be much more effective when these four areas are entirely covered and controlled.

Another goal fixed for the next 2030 is the reduction of energy consumption up to 50%, having as a reference the information gathered during the year 2010. For the attainment of these energy efficiency enhancement initiatives, making better use of renewable or clean energy sources becomes essential, by reducing drastically the use of conventional energies.

The application of new technologies enables pharmaceutical companies to meet the required energy efficiency standards, and is based on two main objectives: the improvement of the technological systems and manufacturing processes, and the implementation of energy management systems. Management systems enable to detect the origin of consumption in order to improve the efficiency and management of the devices, including elements such as engines, pumps and ovens but also all what is related to thermal insulation in factories and their different areas (for instance, it is recommended to install hermetic automatic doors in clean rooms in order to keep air pressure differentials stable and use less energy for their maintenance), or heating, cooling and ventilation (with the installation of automatic doors for partitioning) and the lighting systems employed.

Another measure on which pharmaceutical companies are working is the one regarding medicine packaging boxes while the so-called sustainable packaging is becoming more and more frequent. The eco-design of packing boxes not only minimises the environmental impact, but it also guarantees the quality and security standards required to pharmaceutical products. It is also important to promote drug recycling and that of their packing boxes at the collection points, thus promoting circular economy due to the efficient use of resources.

Energy efficiency suits pharmaceutical companies very well, since it makes it possible to save manufacturing costs, increase profit margins, enhance the corporate image making it more competitive, and helps to minimise the footprint of their activity on the environment, thus improving every citizen’s health.

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