WIT Press

Energy Recovery From Unused And Expired Medicines


Free (open access)

Paper DOI






Page Range

125 - 133




316 kb


P. De Filippis, B. de Caprariis, M. Scarsella & N. Verdone


Production and consumption of pharmaceuticals in the world are continuously growing. An analogous trend can be observed for unused and expired medicines, actually estimated in high-income countries to be greater than 40% of the overall production of medicines. Thus, a correct disposal of this class of waste is assuming increasing importance. Medicine wastage has, in fact, a huge impact worldwide, more than in monetary terms especially for its potential environmental impact such as contamination of groundwater and development of antimicrobial resistance. The two main options for disposing pharmaceuticals are: landfill and thermal destruction, the latter being the best disposal method currently available. High burn temperature and long combustion retention times assure that all organic waste components are effectively destroyed, while effective pollution control systems deal with exhaust gases and residues from the incinerated pharmaceuticals. An alternative to incinerators is the use of existing industrial furnaces, such as cement kilns or foundries that provide a viable and cheap alternative to building economically expensive specific hazardous waste combustors. Considering that in unused and expired medicines the packaging materials constitute the major amount of the waste, the alternatives are the disposal of whole packaged pharmaceutics or the safe disposal of the pharmaceutics only, after removal of the packaging. But this last option implies a high additional cost. The object of this paper is to investigate, on a stock of unused and expired medicines representative of the Italian market, the potentiality of a pyrolysis process as a safe disposal method while providing for energy recovery. Keywords: pharmaceuticals, disposal, pyrolysis, energy recovery.


pharmaceuticals, disposal, pyrolysis, energy recovery.