We prioritize our improvement efforts based on the internationally recognized waste hierarchy, which characterizes practices from most favorable to least favorable: prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and disposal. To make sure the wastes we send off-site are managed in an environmentally responsible manner, Merck established a global waste-management-services vendor-approval program in the late 1980s. To receive approval to manage our hazardous waste, product waste and other industrial waste streams, a commercial waste facility must demonstrate its ability to responsibly manage those waste streams.
Environmental sustainability is a priority with most major Merck Consumer Care customers, most notably Walmart. Thirteen different packaging-design enhancements have eliminated 580,000 lbs of waste annually, including plastic, paperboard and PET. One example is the redesign of the A&D ointment jar from round to square, which uses 40 percent less plastic and translates to an annual reduction of 22,200 lbs of plastic. Another is the shrink-wrapping process of Dr. Scholl's® Custom Fit™ Orthotics that eliminates a corrugated inner carton, resulting in the elimination of 120,000 lbs of waste annually.
In 2011, Merck managed more than 197,000 metric tons of waste from our operations. Of this, 81,000 metric tons required special handling, hereafter referred to as “hazardous,” which includes (but is not limited to) hazardous, special and pharmaceutical product, and medical or infectious waste. This represents a 6 percent reduction in the amount of hazardous waste generated versus the prior year. The reduction is in large part a result of certain processes being discontinued.
The primary component of our hazardous wastes is solvent from our manufacturing operations. Of the hazardous waste we generate, 30 percent is recovered off-site and reused either by Merck or by other industries. This represents a 7 percent increase in off-site hazardous-waste recycling between 2010 and 2011. Another 28 percent is burned as a source of energy in industrial furnaces, such as cement kilns, or to generate power.
Most of the remaining hazardous waste is product or research waste that is not recyclable. Of the total hazardous waste generated, 35 percent is incinerated and approximately 3 percent of our hazardous waste (no liquids) is sent to landfills.
At a number of our facilities, we are able to reuse solvents on-site in our processes. This reuse lowers our manufacturing costs both by reducing the amount of new solvent we need to purchase and by decreasing the amount of waste solvents we need to transport off-site for treatment as hazardous waste. To reduce the amount of hazardous waste we generate, we have established a solvent use goal. For more about solvent use, click here.
We are also tracking our generation of other waste as we continue to reduce generation and increase our non-hazardous waste recycling rate. Because they are different in many ways from other non-hazardous waste streams, this year we are distinguishing industrial waste streams largely comprised of water treatment sludges and other liquid wastes from the more solid waste materials largely comprised of wood, glass, plastic, and metal. We generated approximately 54,000 metric tons of sludges and liquid wastes and 62,000 metric tons of other non-hazardous waste in 2011. We recycled 47 percent of the 62,000 non-hazardous wastes we generated in 2011.
We are taking efforts to conserve resources and reduce waste. Here are some examples from 2011: