Merck hits GHG emissions reduction target three years ahead of schedule

Global healthcare company Merck has announced that it reduced its direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 10.4% since 2009, surpassing its 10% reduction goal three years ahead of schedule.

Announcing its environmental performance, the company’s 2012 corporate responsibility report explains that its GHG emissions include those from its facilities, fleet, and emissions associated with the electricity the company purchases.

The company’s falling GHG emissions are largely due to lower fleet miles driven, moving to higher-fuel-economy vehicles, and shifting some power supplies from purchased electricity to on-site generated electricity.

Several of Merck’s sites host solar arrays producing more than 5,400MWh of energy annually, while one site hosts two 2 MW wind turbines that generate more than 11,700 MWh of energy annually.

Adding to this, the company reduced the number of sales fleet vehicles on the road and the total number of miles driven annually. This has made a significant contribution to the company’s environmental impact as more than 10% of its energy use is associated with its vehicle fleet.

The report also looks into water use and shows that since 2009, the company has reduced its water consumption by 4%.

Unlike GHG emissions, the company is quite far from its 2015 reduction target of 15% and meeting this target, along with its 2020 goal of 25%, could be more challenging considering the company has achieved a 4% reduction in the last three years.

During 2012, Merck used 9.1 billion gallons of water versus 9.5 billion gallons in 2009 but the 9.1 billion figure is unchanged from 2011.

However, to facilitate achieving its 2015 and 2020 goals, Merck has committed funding for improvements in reducing water demand and enhancing wastewater treatment.

Much of the water used is for cooling utility systems in manufacturing plants that produce active pharmaceutical ingredients. These systems require large volumes of cooling water.

Approximately 42% of the water the company used globally in 2012 was for once-through non-contact cooling, a process by which water is pumped into a plant, circulated through heat-exchange piping to cool processes, and then discharged.

The company says: “Our efforts to reduce this use of water are a major part of our goal realization strategy”.

Approximately 73% of the total water we used was supplied from nearby surface water and groundwater resources, with the balance sourced from municipal water supplies.

Many Merck facilities employ water reuse and recovery strategies including recirculation of water in cooling towers and condensate recovery.

“During 2012, we recycled or reused 3.3 billion gallons of water, which means we used 26 percent less freshwater than would have been used without these water recycling and reuse strategies,” the company states.

Waste management also improved in 2012, with the company managing a total of 179,000 metric tons of waste from its operations, a 4% decrease from 2011.

Of this, 71,600 metric tons were hazardous waste, a 7% reduction versus the previous year. The reduction is in large part a result of certain processes being discontinued or moved to external partners.

According to the company, of the hazardous waste generated in 2012, 58% was beneficially reused in some way.

Merck said: “We have made public commitments to increase our non-hazardous waste recycling in the short term (2015) and to reduce our generation in the longer term (2020).

“We recycled 55% of the 53,800 metric tons of nonhazardous wastes we generated in 2012. We are evaluating and refining the programs at our facilities to drive waste reductions,” it added.

Leigh Stringer

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