Pharma boss calls for Ireland to invest in waste management

Local waste facilities would be a good calling card for new investment, Japanese group says

Takeda   has invested €40 million at Grange Castle to build a new plant . Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Takeda has invested €40 million at Grange Castle to build a new plant . Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters


Investing in specialist waste management facilities would strengthen Ireland’s hand in attracting more foreign investment, a global pharmaceuticals chief has said.

Christophe Weber said there was a “huge critical mass” of pharmaceutical manufacturing in Ireland, “so I think having its own waste capability would be a big competitive advantage for the future for Ireland”.

Mr Weber, who is global chief executive of Japan’s largest drug company Takeda, was in Ireland for the opening of its new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility for its blockbuster cancer drug, Ninlaro. The company has invested €40 million at Grange Castle to build the plant that will manufacture the drug for global supply.

“Waste used to be global, so you shipped the waste,” Mr Weber said, “but as you know, it’s becoming very sensitive”.

China shut the door on most of the plastics it was taking in 2017, citing contamination and environmental issues. That has led to a scramble to find alternative markets and a significant re-evaluation of the need to reduce waste generally and to manage what remains more locally.

Shipping overseas

“I think that’s an area that could be interesting for Ireland to look at, so that you could be doing your own waste management here instead of shipping it overseas,” Mr Weber says.

Takeda which has three plants at Bray in Wicklow and Grange Castle with another on the way at Grange Castle said it is investing a lot more of its own time on environmental health and safety – reducing energy consumption, reducing emissions, also reducing the waste.

“We are trying to reduce it,” says Thomas Wozniewski, Takeda’s global manufacturing and supply officer, “but still, of course, there is a lot of plastics and other waste. We try to recycle as much as possible. But sometimes we have to incinerate and, at the moment, we don’t have this capacity and technology here in Ireland. So, it’s still shipped [abroad] basically.

“I think the more pharma companies build [plants] here in Ireland, there should also be this capacity,” he said.

Grange Castle is also working actively to reduce its carbon footprint. Plant manager Paul Keogh said that it delivered a 40 per cent fall in its CO2 footprint in 2018 and a 5 per cent reduction in energy use.

“So we brought P2 [the new Ninlaro manufacturing site] online this year without increasing our gas or energy bills because of the project savings we made last year,” he said.

Takeda has set up a fund to deliver energy management projects around its global network so that plants are not forced to tap their own budgets to improve their green credentials.