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Biotechnology Labs: P2 Opportunities
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons to Change
P2 Opportunities
Where To Go for P2 Help
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable
[Requires registration] The Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) and global pharmaceutical corporations d...

Rummaging Through the Green Chemistry Toolbox
Synopsis of presentations for green chemistry opportunities at pharmaceuticals, including solvent se...

There are many opportunities for biotech firms to improve environmental performance and minimize waste. These pollution prevention opportunities for biotech research, along with a few resources for biotech manufacturing, are categorized below, in the following areas:

The highest priority in pollution prevention is the source reduction component - which aims to avoid the use of resources, eliminate or reduce use of toxic materials, and reduce generation of waste and pollution. For the biotech industry, worthy opportunities also exist in reuse, recycling, waste management, and treatment.

The following suggestions are meant to include as many options as possible, knowing that some may work for one company or application, but not for others. Some suggested opportunities may require evaluation and testing prior to implementing.

One obstacle to change in existing manufacturing processes, and less so to the research and discovery phases, is that a drug manufacturing process is frozen once the product is licensed by the FDA. The production methods cannot be changed without significant investment of time and money to relicense. However, changes can be instigated during development of the next generation of an existing product. These conditions and stipulations do not apply to research, discovery, or pre-clinical trial phase.

Disclaimer: Mention of specific brand name products or equipment does not constitute endorsement of these products or equipment by the EPA, PPRC, or P2Rx. Additionally, any suggestions below that may impact regulatory or functional or technical performance require evaluation by the individual company prior to adopting.

Source Reduction and Green Chemistry

Source reduction opportunities in biotech research are categorized into various areas such as chemical purchasing, chemical use and management, substitution, energy and water conservation, and other areas. Many of these suggestions fall in line with "Green Chemistry" and "Green Engineering" principles. Green Chemistry encompasses the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous substances and resulting hazardous waste. Green engineering is the development and commercialization of industrial processes that are economically feasible and reduce the risk to human health and the environment. For more information on the twelve principles of green chemistry and engineering, visit American Chemical Society's Green Chemistry Institute.

The following source reduction opportunities are listed under:
- Chemical Purchasing
- Chemical Use, Storage, and Management
- Chemical and Material Substitution
- Additional Green Chemistry and Green Engineering
- Glass Washing
- Waste Segregation for Optimal Recycling, Treatment, or Disposal

Chemical Purchasing

Chemical Use, Storage, and Management

Chemical and Material Substitution

Some researchers have strong preferences for certain methods or reagents, and it may be difficult to investigate change unless it is well proven that the results will not be affected. Therefore, these suggestions are offered as potential options to consider. Where available, anecdotal accounts of successful changes are included.

Other non-toxic substitutes for xylene are aliphatic hydrocarbons such as Propar(TM) and Clearite(TM), but aliphatic hydrocarbon solvents have been reported to have about one-third the solvent activity of xylene.

A third xylene substitute is d-limonene which has been reported to have almost the same solvent activity as xylene, but is quite slow drying and can leave an oily residue. In addition, it has been reported that d-limonene still poses some toxicity, that it can act as an allergen, and that it causes nausea in some people.

Additional Green Chemistry and Green Engineering

Glass Washing

Waste Segregation for Optimal Recycling, Treatment, or Disposal

Energy Efficiency

Water Efficiency

Reuse and Recycling

The distinction between reuse and recycling is sometimes blurred, however both options for spent or expired materials generated by biotech facilities help to reduce the energy, water, pollution, and raw material consumption associated with manufacturing virgin products. Opportunities include:

For materials not recycled on site, establish contracts with commercial service recycler(s) or exchange(s) for:


On-site treatment is an option for some lab wastes that cannot be otherwise recovered or recycled, as long as all federal, state, and local regulations and exposure protections are met. Some treatment options include:

Resources for Manufacturing

Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., estimates that it takes up to 1,760 pounds of solvent to manufacture 2.2 pounds of certain medications. And organic solvents account for about 80 percent of the wastes in a typical drug manufacturing process. Dr. Slater, at Rowan University helped develop a solvent selection toolkit applicable to pharmaceutical manufacturing, which contains information on a range of solvents to make a manufacturing process more benign. The tool covers solvents that should be avoided, their environmental impact, and health and safety issues associated with specific solvents. To access this tool, go to and login using 'guest' as username and password. Click on "Software", then go to LCA Resources.

Minimize environmental impacts of packaging designs with reduced materials and lightweighting, non-toxic materials, reusable materials, recycled content materials, and recyclable or biodegradable materials.

[1] Scheruing, S. 2005. Gas Selection/Management for the Biotech Lab. BioPharm International.


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Hub Last Updated: 1/16/2014