Operational waste management
We are committed to
reducing waste and have a target of sending zero production waste to
landfill by 2030. The next step is to transform our business processes
to eliminate the negative environmental footprint from all our
operations and driving a circular transition across the company.
End of life challenge management
Minimising the use of plastic derived from fossil fuels is a
priority for Novo Nordisk – and a significant challenge given the
rapid growth in demand for our medical injection devices. We currently
manufacture more than 800 million pre-filled plastic pens every year,
equivalent to some 14,000 tonnes of plastic. As the number of patients
we serve continues to grow, those numbers will rise markedly unless we
take decisive action.
We are tackling our plastic challenge on multiple fronts, with a
threefold ‘reduce-change-avoid’ approach. This includes reducing
overall plastic consumption by converting to re-usable devices,
changing to the use of non-virgin-fossil plastics in our device
production and harnessing recycling to avoid plastic ending up in landfill.
The task is not simple. When it comes to recycling, for example,
used injection pens cannot be dealt with in the same way as other
household recycling because they are classified as medical waste,
which most countries are not equipped to handle. To address this
challenge, we have expanded a series of pioneering take-back
programmes across Denmark, the UK, France and Brazil, and in 2023 we
established the world’s first industry solution for recycling
injection pens in Denmark. Pharmaceutical companies Lilly, Sanofi and
Merck have all joined the initiative, and we now share a goal of
recycling 25% of the pens distributed by all four companies in Denmark
within the first 12 months.
Another important initiative involves rethinking medicine delivery
by switching from disposable to reusable devices – some with an
expected lifespan of up to 5 years. Over the past year, we have
converted selected products in a number of countries and we expect to
switch more in 2024. We are also steadily building device durability
into the development of new medicines and expect that a trend from
daily to once-weekly administration for many products will contribute
to reduced plastic use per patient in the long term.
In addition, we are exploring more sustainable ways to produce
plastic. A good example is a new agreement signed by Novo Nordisk,
alongside the LEGO Group, to buy e-methanol from European Energy when
the world’s first large-scale production plant for the commodity
starts up in Denmark in 2024. The e-methanol – made from renewable
electricity, water and captured biogenic CO2 – will help us
to create lower-carbon plastics for use in our medical devices.
In 2023, waste from production sites
decreased by 11% compared to 2022 due to waste reduction initiatives,
and an increased focus on energy recovery, reuse of waste and
implementation of zero landfill waste strategies.
The amount of waste recycled decreased by 22% from 179,003 to
147,135 tonnes, primarily due to focus on waste fractions, reduction
in metal and paper waste, and a transition from recycling to resource recovery.
The amount of waste sent for energy recovery decreased by 5% from
22,920 to 21,911 tonnes, primarily due to optimisation projects and
changes in the composition of waste, which led to a decrease in the
amount of waste being sent to incineration. Less than 0.3% of total
waste was sent to landfill. In 2023, 20% of the waste was categorised
as hazardous waste.