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Waste and recycling

Waste and recycling


Medical and chemical waste arises in addition to conventional domestic waste. We dispose of old and unused medications expertly.

Our approach to this matter

Besides traditional domestic waste (mainly packaging materials), the Galenica Group also produces medical and chemical waste. Expired or excess medicines are classified as hazardous waste in Switzerland and cannot be disposed of as conventional industrial waste. Hazardous waste entails disposal costs and ecological risks.

Professional disposal of returned medicines

Pharmacies and the Galenica logistics companies take back old and unused medicines from customers and dispose of them professionally. In pharmacies, the medicines are disposed of according to internal quality management processes. Pharmacists perform an initial inspection of the returned medications and sort them according to specific criteria. They particularly focus on critical ingredients (such as heavy metals, solvents and highly active ingredients) as well as dosage form, particularly in the case of pressurised gas containers. Based on this preselection, the drugs are then dispatched for proper disposal, whether at a regular incineration plant or in a specially designed high-temperature furnace. The disposal of controlled substances such as narcotics must be documented by the pharmacists and reported to Swissmedic. The GDP guidelines followed by Alloga and Galexis also provide instructions on dealing with returns. The final disposal of old and unused medicines is carried out by third parties. Medifilm is an exception to this. It is the only company in the Galenica Group that holds a special waste disposal permit.

For safety reasons, all returned drugs are disposed of – without exception – even if they have not yet expired and/or the packaging is still intact. Controlled disposal prevents people or animals from coming into contact with potentially hazardous pharmaceutical waste, e.g. in the case of torn rubbish bags at the roadside, as well as eliminating any risk to collection companies’ employees. The process also ensures that household litter, and wastewater in particular, are not polluted. Medication should never be poured down sinks or lavatories because sewage plants are unable to filter out certain substances in medicinal products during wastewater treatment. As a result, if these substances are discharged into the aquatic environment, they cause harm to the animals and plants that inhabit it. All Galenica Group pharmacies also provide biodegradable plastic bags for customers. Pharmacies therefore make a valuable contribution towards environmentally compatible and controlled disposal of hazardous waste.

Facts and figures

Almost half of all waste is recycled

The total weight of waste produced in 2020 was 2,850 tonnes, equivalent to an increase of 14% compared to the previous year. The inclusion of the Bichsel Group’s waste data is responsible for 10% of this increase in 2020. The weight of waste per full-time equivalent increased by 13% compared to 2019. Estimates of waste data at pharmacies have been available only since 2017. The volume of waste produced by pharmacies accounts for around 29% of total waste generated. 88% of total waste was harmless (largely general waste, cardboard, paper and plastics), with the remaining 12% classified as hazardous waste (mainly medicines). 48% of waste was recycled, 40% was incinerated and 12% destroyed at a specialist facility for hazardous waste.

Waste by type 2016–2020


Waste by disposal method 2016–2020


For 2015–2016, only data for Galexis, Alloga, UFD, Galenicare and Medifilm are available. As of 2017, estimates of waste data are available for the pharmacies. Figures on the Bichsel Group’s waste are included from 2020.

Outlook for 2021

The Services Business sector is constantly investigating additional measures to reduce waste. One effective measure is the use of recyclable packaging, which already accounts for over 90% of deliveries.

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