Pharma-firms-look-to-profit-from-wastePharma companies are scouting for customers to sell the waste products, including solvents and pigments, generated in their companies. These products are used as raw materials in other industries, which buy them at reduced costs, sometimes by as much as 50 per cent.

For instance, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories has six active pharmaceutical units in Andhra Pradesh. The waste streams from the API units mostly contain potassium sulphate, caustic lye, potassium chloride, potassium sulphate and sodium sulphate salts.
According to a DRL official, the streams are segregated and distilled to separate the respective salts in them. These are then sold to authorised agencies to be used as raw materials in fertiliser, paper and soap industries. The company is currently selling paper and plastic waste and industrial packing material to ITC for onward recycling. The 'green' effort helps DRL earn Rs 40 lakh as revenues a year.

Virchow Laboratories sells sodium sulphate, gypsum, solvents and fly ash generated at the company’s Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam bulk drug manufacturing units. While sodium sulphate is the raw material for the soap and detergent industry, gypsum finds use in the cement industry and solvents are the key raw materials for the paint industry. The fly-ash is used for making bricks, says Virchow chairman M Narayana Reddy.

Virchow, which exports anti-bacterial drug – sulphamethoxazole – has a production capacity of 6,000 tonne per annum. The company also meets a part of its power requirements by back-preserving the steam generated through a 1.5-Mw captive power plant at Hyderabad and a 3-Mw unit at Visakhapatnam. The cost of production is about Re 1 per unit.

Another city-based firm Jupiter Bioscience Limited, manufacturer and exporter of bulk drugs and intermediates, supplies the solvents produced in the company to small-scale paint industries through third party traders. The solvents are also used as fuel in furnaces.

On an average, the company generates about 15,000 litre solvent monthly, according to its managing director K Venkat Ramana.

Narayana Reddy, who is also chairman of the Bulk Drug Manufacturers' Association, says most of its 500-odd members have found or in the process of finding customers for the waste products. The association is also working to popularise the zero discharge concept. “We are propagating the waste exchange policy,” he says.

According to information, several drug companies are upgrading their processes including setting up water recycling plants and distillation plants for effective waste management by spending 10-40 per cent of the turnover in view of the long term benefits.

Companies like Dr Reddy’s Laboratories converted its API units into zero liquid discharge units in January 2009, the DRL official informs.

“The zero discharge policy is a win-win situation for the companies and their clients. It encourages the drug companies to refine their processes to increase the yield and also reduce the raw material costs for the companies. The cost difference sometimes can be up to 50 per cent compared to the cost from a chemical unit,” Venkat Ramana says.

Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board senior environmental engineer T Rajendra Reddy feels companies should look to become zero discharge to remain competent. “They should factor in the costs of upgrading to cleaner products or technologies to reduce the concentration of total solvent dissolved before sending it to the common effluent plant.”

The companies can sell the waste or by-products that are not classified as hazardous as raw materials. In the case of hazardous wastes, they should notify the Pollution Control Board and sell only to authorised recyclers for treatment.