Although waste contains valuable raw materials that can be reused in the production stream, it can also pose a risk to the environment. We therefore consider it essential to prevent or recycle as much of our waste as possible.
Our approach to waste and recycling
Because we want to reduce our environmental footprint, we strive to both limit the loss of raw materials and reduce the impact of our waste disposal practices on the environment. To this end, we are working to lower the Merck Waste Score, our key waste management indicator, by 5% by 2025 (2016 baseline).
We generally try to prevent the generation of waste, for instance by developing new production processes or optimizing existing ones. Since this is not always feasible, we do our best to reuse the accrued waste to produce materials or generate energy. We support the circular economy approach through our Merck Waste Scoring System and the related goal of recycling. Waste separation makes it possible to recover and recycle raw materials, while unrecyclable waste is discarded in an environmentally sustainable manner in line with the strictest waste disposal standards. In doing so, we comply with local legal regulations and take into account the available disposal options.
Responsibility for the waste disposal process
As a generator of waste, we are responsible for the ultimate disposal of our waste products and therefore choose our service providers with the utmost care, contractually stipulating disposal requirements. We conduct random audits to verify their compliance with our disposal standards, especially when it comes to hazardous waste.
How we organize our waste management and recycling
Our Group Environment, Health, Safety, Security, Quality (EQ) function bears overall responsibility for our waste management and recycling practices, while our EHS managers are in charge of implementing our guidelines and requirements at our individual sites (see Environmental stewardship). At both the Group level and in the United States, we have established waste expert network groups whose members share their waste management expertise and best practices with one another.
Waste management forms part of our Group-wide environmental management system, which is certified to ISO 14001. As well as undergoing external certification, we also conduct internal EHS audits to review our waste management practices. Moreover, in an effort to ensure Group-wide compliance with our environmental standards, we regularly host activities such as EHS forums and conferences to keep our local EHS managers and site directors informed on various waste disposal matters and raise awareness for the topic.
Integration of Versum Materials and Intermolecular
In the course of integrating Versum Materials and Intermolecular, two companies we acquired in 2019, we are reviewing their existing management structures, policies, standards, and processes for waste management and recycling, and implementing our internal Group-wide requirements if necessary. We are furthermore reviewing their current process for collecting waste-related indicators and are working to harmonize methodologies and timelines. Starting in 2020, we will incorporate the waste indicators for Versum Materials and Intermolecular into our reporting.
Our commitment: Group-wide EHS standard
Our Group-wide EHS Waste Management Standard provides a consistent framework for waste management across all our sites, defining organizational structures and minimum requirements. It also stipulates that all facilities document their waste by type and quantity and report these data to our Group EQ function.
Systematic waste reduction
Within our company we use a variety of methods for recycling and disposing of waste, each of which has a different impact on the environment. To systematically account for these impacts in our waste reduction efforts, we have created the Merck Waste Scoring System, which allows us to compare the amount of waste our individual sites generate and track our various waste streams. Under this system, the volume of waste is assigned to one of five categories: landfilling, thermal disposal, waste-to-energy, recycling, and prevention. This is then multiplied by a factor that increases based on the disposal method’s environmental impact. The sum of the scores from each category provides the total Merck Waste Score. Prevented waste is multiplied by a factor of zero, thus lowering the overall result.
Reducing the environmental impacts of waste
In 2017, we calculated our Group-wide Waste Score for 2016. Taking this as a baseline, our goal is to shrink the environmental footprint of our waste disposal by 5% by 2025. To achieve this objective, we constantly examine our production processes and disposal methods to identify potential areas for improvement. We are supported in this endeavor by two waste expert network groups that regularly discuss best practices, share lessons learned across our sites, and drive the transition to greener disposal methods across the Group. In general, all sites are expected to do their part to achieve this goal.
Relative to 2018, the amount of waste we generated in 2019 decreased slightly, totaling 244 metric kilotons (2018: 245 metric kilotons). Soil, construction and demolition waste continue to account for the majority of our total waste, representing 31%, the same as in 2018. The Merck Waste Score does not factor in this type of waste, which can rarely be avoided and must be disposed in accordance with clearly prescribed methods.
Advancing the circular economy
In early 2019, we rolled out our ProMec initiative at our Darmstadt (Germany) site. This program aims to promote a sustainable, resource-efficient circular economy by expanding our existing solvent recycling program, thereby minimizing the negative environmental impacts from the disposal of our production waste. Through the pilot, we are now recycling approximately 1,300 metric tons of liquid production waste per year.
Optimizing processes to reduce solvent usage
In 2019, we optimized the manufacturing process for puromycin, one of our active ingredients used in research, at our site in Jerusalem (Israel). Per production batch, we are now replacing 4,000 liters of the carcinogenic solvent dichloromethane with 200 liters of methanol. In 2019, we thus saved 8,000 liters of dichloromethane.
Educating employees on proper waste disposal
In 2019, our Life Science business sector created a set of more than 70 different signs on waste, recycling and composting. The designs are available in four languages to all business sectors. They provide a flexible, uniform and easy-to-understand system which educates employees on site-specific waste, recycling, and composting requirements.