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Guiding Customers with Responsible Product Disposal

Our customers and their stakeholders are increasingly recognizing the environmental impact created by disposal of their used products and related packaging. As a result, there is a growing demand for manufacturers to take greater responsibility for reducing the environmental impacts of their products.

We are committed to applying best practice product stewardship principles and strive to:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of a product’s full environmental impacts across all of its life cycle stages;
  • Communicate and collaborate with our customers, suppliers and other partners to identify ways to reduce impacts across the life cycle of our products; and
  • Assess and offer innovative product packaging, recycling and end-of-life programs to help our customers reduce disposal impacts via safe, responsible and valuable alternative re-uses.

We continue to explore additional creative solutions to further reduce the life cycle impacts and costs of our products. By working with our customers we have developed key programs that are beginning to change the end-of-life scenario for many of our products.

Ech2o™ Collection and Recycling Program

Our Lab Water business developed the Ech2o™ Collection and Recycling Program, an innovative product collection and recycling program that is designed to reduce the environmental impact of Lab Water purification cartridges. The program was developed in partnership with a waste management company that specializes in developing processes for hard to recycle products. A life cycle assessment revealed that this process may reduce the environmental impact of the cartridges by 10%-15%. To view the life cycle assessments of three of our water purification catridges, please see below:

The program enables our customers to send back their water purification cartridges to be recycled, avoiding the need for traditional disposal methods, such as landfill dumping or incineration. More than 300 customers in the U.S. are already taking advantage of this first-of-its-kind program. We are currently investigating a global expansion of this program in order to reach more customers.

Biopharma Product Recycling Program

Single-use products are increasingly playing a role in the biopharmaceutical industry. Improvements in disposing of these products are a challenging task owing to a lack of recycling infrastructure, the material mix of the products, and the specific requirements for handling biologically hazardous residues.

We are developing a program in partnership with a waste management company to address these unique disposal issues.

In 2012, we embarked upon a pilot recycling program in collaboration with five U.S. customers to run and test the feasibility of recycling disposable or single use products. The pilot project showed that recycling can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 14% in comparison to traditional disposal methods, as confirmed by an end-of-life life cycle assessment. During the 10 months of the pilot, over 54,431 kilograms of single-use plastic products were collected, diverted from landfill and recycled. Material that couldn’t be recycled into new products, such as plastic pallets, paint pails or household decking, were sent for use as an alternative fuel source in a cement kiln. This effort alone was equivalent to saving over 49,696 liters of gasoline.

Biogen Idec was one of our first customers involved in the pilot. Within just four months, we were able to remove over 15,876 kilograms of single use products from going to incineration. After sorting and disassembly of the products, over 8,164 kilograms was recycled and the remainder was used as an alternative fuel source in a cement kiln. By using a combination of recycling and a cement kiln, the customer avoided the use of 36,000 kg CO2e, the equivalent to eliminating the use of more than 15,142 liters of gasoline.

We are continuing to develop and refine the program so that we may begin to offer this unique service to more of our customers both in the U.S. and globally.


The EMD Millipore ReCycler™ program aims to reduce the amount of small containers and frequent shipments of solvents to our U.S.-based customers. The program was also developed to help keep customers conveniently supplied with solvents so they can work with certainty knowing they will not run out of product. Customers simply purchase the containers and return them as they are emptied. A newly filled container is scheduled to arrive just as the old one is being depleted. The ability to cycle and reuse these containers has met the needs of the scientific community by eliminating the need to dispose of large volumes of glass bottles, styrofoam packaging inserts and corrugated cartons. Documentation, staging, storage and transport are also reduced when using EMD Millipore ReCycler™ Systems.

In addition to the clear customer benefits of convenience and simplified handling, a carbon footprint analysis of the ReCycler™ container system showed a marked environmental improvement when compared to the conventional four liter bottle supply. Results were standardized to a per-liter basis for the product being shipped using each method. They show that using ReCycler™ offers a 53% reduction in packaging-to-product weight ratio combined with a 99% reduction in the total mass of solid waste created by packaging. The total Global Warming Potential (GWP) of the Recycler™ system was reduced by between 69-83% depending on the location of shipments. The Cumulative Energy Demand (CED) per liter of solvent shipped by this system was also reduced by 88%. These results highlight the additional confidence customers can gain by using ReCycler™, knowing that environmental impacts are lower than the alternative.

Sustainability Highlights for ReCycler™

ReCycler™1 Compared to MilliporeSigma's product delivery system using 4 liter glass bottles
2 Bases on (4) 200L ReCycler™ containers per pallet vs. (108) 4L glass bottles per pallet


Our Retrologistik® program is a well-established service that began over 20 years ago. Initially set up in Germany, this program is now in several other countries to help dispose of used packaging and chemicals in a more safe and environmentally sound manner.

Disposal of Chemical Waste and Containers - Europe:

Through this program, customers may return their chemical containers and packaging for reuse and recycling. Certain chemicals may also be returned for proper disposal, while other used chemical containers can be cleaned and refurbished using a validated process. These containers can then be refilled and used for new products. Please find more general information on the service pages:

Assisting Countries to Develop Chemical Waste Disposal Processes - Asia:

Through a partnerships with the German Association for International Cooperation (Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit - GIZ), we worked together to establish the Retrologistik® concept in Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand to help drive awareness and improve how hazardous materials are handled. The project, Environmentally Sound Management of Chemical Waste in South East Asia, entailed transferring the technology and knowledge of the European Retrologistik® program to build the same capacity and knowledge within South East Asia.

Within three years, this alliance improved training, auditing and implementation capacity in the respective countries. In addition, it increased the number of users who handle and dispose of their chemicals in an environmentally sound manner and boosted the number of qualified waste disposal firms.In collaboration with the GIZ, we jointly trained more than 1,000 people as trainers, including employees at universities in Thailand and at governmental organizations, such as the Department of Science and Technology of the Philippines and the Indonesia State Ministry of Environment. To date, the trained universities in Thailand have now properly disposed of eight tons of lab waste, and government labs in the Philippines have properly disposed of two tons of chemicals via a project partner. Please see the Indonesia Retrologstik® case study to learn more.

We hope to continue to find opportunities to expand this program in other regions.

Questions about the end of life of your products?

1.) How do I get started with the Biopharma Recycling Program?

This program is still under development, however if you are interested you may contact us at for more information.

2.) I have chemical waste but no information about legal EU requirements.

The basic definitions of wastes have been published by the EU in guidelines No. 75/442/EEC (waste in general), and 91/689/EEC (hazardous waste), of which the complete texts can be found on the following web sites: 75/442/EEC and 91/689/EEC

Key contents of these regulations are:

  • All types of waste (not only chemical ones) have been compiled and classified in the European Waste Catalogue. This catalogue is valid and compulsory in all EU member states. Without this classification (expressed by 6-digit numbers), no waste disposal or recovery procedure is possible within the EU.
  • Waste should preferably be reused I recycled I recovered instead of being disposed.
  • Disposal procedures should be applied only when the recycling / recovery processes are technically not practicable or unsafe or more expensive than a legally correct disposal.
  • All procedures with waste (reclamation as well as disposal) have to be performed in a manner which is safe for mankind and environment. This is not described in detail, so realisation underlies national laws, which may lead to individual variations within the EU.
  • Each treatment of a waste stream in a recovery I disposal facility has to be permitted by the authorities beforehand. This also applies for the transport of this waste from the waste producer to the recovery I disposal facility.
  • Any waste transport has to be documented. The extent of documentation depends on the waste classification (hazardous or not; defined in the catalogue mentioned above). Details of this administrative procedure vary from state to state.

Please also check your domestic regulations!

3.) I have chemical waste and I need information about disposal possibilities.

If some of your wastes are in original packaging, see if you can find another lab that needs the chemicals. While we cannot take back chemicals, we can offer some suggestions to assure that your lab is in compliance with your local ordinances and regulations:
  1. If your chemicals have never been opened and have not expired, you can look to see if there are labs in the area that can use these materials.
  2. If, however, your chemicals have expired or you have an amount left in the container, we suggest contacting your local waste removal company for options for safe handling, transportation and disposal.
To start a disposal procedure (based on German requirements) and obtain a permit for a certain waste stream, including waste recovery and final disposal:
  1. Determine which procedure to apply, and with which partner(s) to cooperate (this considers both type of waste and the handling procedure).
  2. Contact the authorities for permission to apply this procedure. This permission is necessary for any transportation of waste.
  3. Determine the origin and composition of the waste (in detail), including:
    • Name of the intended disposal company
    • Estimated amount of waste per year. This limit must not be exceeded. The maximum expiry time of such a permit is five years, and the planned amount for each year must be listed.
    • Exact disposal procedure
  4. Integrate the disposal company into the process: permission for treatment, logistic conditions etc.
  5. After you have received the authorities' consent, then the waste can be transported to the disposal company.
  6. Further legal requirements linked with the safety of waste transportation (e.g. ADR) include classification, accompanying documents, and suitable containers as well as vans and drivers (regardless who transports) etc.

4.) I have waste packages and need information about disposal possibilities.

Merck KGaA Darmstadt, Germany and VWR International GmbH (Deutschland) are classified as self-disposal companies and with the Retrologistik® system give their customers the opportunity to return product-packaging materials from Merck KGaA Darmstadt, Germany or VWR for recycling.

The person or company removing products from packaging materials is under no obligation to return the packaging materials, i.e. the return of such materials is entirely voluntary for our customers.

If you wish to return reusable containers for which you have paid a deposit, please contact your sales partner.

Please also see EU guideline: Directive on packaging 94/62/EEC

Within the European Union (EU), Merck KGaA Darmstadt, Germany or the manufacturer takes back empty vessels and packaging. Furthermore empty vessels and packaging can be disposed via a special collection system (Retrologistik®). Please check your domestic regulations and contact your nearest Merck KGaA Darmstadt, Germany agency.

Please send back returnable drums (e.g. cans and vessels) to the manufacturer.

Before returning them, cans and vessels have to be completely empty and closed tightly.

As cans and drums normally cannot be emptied drip-free, please declare the transport as shipment for dangerous goods. Make sure the drums are marked with the appropriate labels for product and dangerous goods!

5.) Is it possible that MilliporeSigma will take back used products or collected waste?

Waste recovery and/or disposal should be executed – wherever possible – within the individual producing state ("environmental autarky"), unless another EU member state can provide better handling conditions. In cases where the waste will be transported cross borders to another state, a very detailed procedure of permission and surveillance is required (see EU regulation EC/1013/06). A regulation is a legal device which must be adopted in all member states without any adaptation or modification. This procedure is also valid for the importation of waste into and for the exportation out of the EU.

This regulation prescribes in detail all things we have to do and not to do. It is also valid for countries which are not EU-members.

The system of transfrontier shipment of waste looks complicated at a first glance but is not if you are a bit familiar with it.

The export licences are regulated and covered by the EU regulation. We have to use a so-called notification procedure. Here, all authorities are involved which are touched by the transport: in the exporter's country, in the importer's country (Germany) and in all transit countries. All these authorities have to be contacted and have to agree.

The agreed notification is valid for one year and must then be renewed with the full procedure.

If you decide to complete the notification yourself, we will send you information and copies on how to do the notification. The transport costs are dependent on the weight and the distance and fees are approximately €400.

The transport costs depend on the weight and the distance, the fees mainly on the weight (the order of magnitude is about 400€ for the fees).

6.) Can I recycle my used water cartridges without using the ech2o™ Program?

MilliporeSigma cartridges are made from components that are recyclable. The housing and some internal components will need to be separated from each other in order to be recycled. If you have a company that can safely and efficiently disassemble the products, then they can be recycled. If you would like more information on the types of plastics contained in the cartridges, please contact us at
Retrologistik Disposal Service

Retrologistik® Disposal Service

Safe, simple disposal of chemical waste and packaging

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