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Industrial Factory

Circularity - Chemicals

Adaptive Solvent Recovery


Direct Operations and Supply Chain


Carbon emissions reduction,

waste reduction and circularity


The production, use and disposal of solvents is widely understood to have significant impacts to climate, water, land and human health.  At the same time, these materials play essential roles in the manufacture of a range of products with significant value to human health and wellbeing.  Initiatives driving efficiency in production or achieving material replacements offer dramatic benefits to human and planetary health.

This project was undertaken to support progress in circularity and carbon reduction targets at a flagship pharmaceutical site in the US.   In this case, solvent waste from pilot plant operations represented the greatest impacts in terms of carbon footprint, weight and cost.  At the same time, significant concerns were raised around maintaining process flexibility for the pilot plant while ensuring regulatory compliance.

Project Overview

Problem Statement



How can we reduce solvent waste and increase circularity in operations while maintaining essential process flexibility and regulatory compliance?

The mix of technical, procedural and regulatory complexity included in this project necessitated a strong team representing all key stakeholder groups - engineering, sustainability, quality, waste management, and our external solvent recycling company.  Working together, we mapped the current process and identified the essential needs of each team affected by the project.  Internally, it was paramount that we maintained process integrity, flexibility and quality of our finished product.  Our external partners had specific quality, labelling and shipping parameters.  Everyone was focused on ensuring worker safety and regulatory compliance.  All combined, constraints seemed to abound - we knew we needed to think outside the box.

Using tools like process mapping and value identification, the team began by identifying key inflection points in the process.  We wanted to work within the existing system as much as possible to prevent process disruption and rework.  Through the course of our work, it became clear that a little known team of recipe writers, the folks that wrote the manufacturing specifications, were at the heart of the solution.  The recipes they wrote defined solvent inputs, processing approaches, filtration and waste management procedures.  

Working closely with our solvent recycling partner, our process engineers developed a set of rules for all solvent to be sent offsite for recovery.  This was provided to our recipe writers, and over a few iterations, a guide was developed for writing solvent recovery into manufacturing processes.  The guide provided writers information on solvent recovery constraints and trade-offs, and gave them the flexibility to move between processes and ensure consistent quality in manufacturing and to our external partners.  Working within our existing systems made it easy to ensure safety and regulatory compliance.


This project immediately resulted in a 40% reduction in solvent waste, achieved solvent circularity (the return of solvents back into the economy), and drove a dramatic reduction in the site's largest waste-related carbon emissions.  






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