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Working toward a zero-waste-to-landfill goal

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Takeda is a global biopharmaceutical corporation with an ambitious zero-waste-to-landfill goal. BioLife, a subsidiary of Takeda, sought to develop prioritized recycling strategies in support of Takeda’s sustainability pledge and goals. A team of three Sustainable Business Lab (S-Lab) students tackled the project—hands on.

“We approached this challenge from various perspectives, utilizing both primary and secondary analysis methods,” says MBA student Beatriz Ramirez. “To analyze the waste composition, we conducted two physical audits at BioLife plasma donation centers.”

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Laura Cappellucci | MBA '17 and sustainable business lead for BioLife Plasma Services at Takeda
As a host, I was impressed by the team's ability to achieve so much in a short amount of time. They took the time to understand our core business operations, which allowed them to align their sustainability recommendations with our goal of providing a safe and excellent environment for plasma donations.

Learning waste disposal practices

During the first audit, the students collected waste samples from the reception, examination rooms, phlebotomy floors, and breakout areas. Next, they carefully labeled each bin, then separated the materials into waste and potentially recyclable categories. In the second audit, the team conducted a material-based analysis, separating, weighing, and recording the contents of each bin based on material type.

“This hands-on project helped me develop deep insights into recycling processes and waste segregation within large organizations,” says Sloan Fellows MBA (SFMBA) student Mahelaqua.

To gain further insights, the S-Lab team conducted face-to-face interviews with the staff at the centers. “These interviews helped us understand the waste disposal practices, identify pain points, and uncover potential areas for improvement,” Mahelaqua adds.

Applying classroom theory to the challenge

The team also used research and analysis methods they learned in the classroom to examine real-time data and inform BioLife’s decision-making. “In addition to primary methods, we employed secondary analysis techniques, such as causal loop diagrams,” says SFMBA student Wu Wei Ngau.

Throughout the project, the BioLife team actively participated and provided guidance, facilitating an ongoing exchange of ideas. This collaborative process allowed the students to deliver a refined and comprehensive recommendations report, Ramirez says.

The S-Lab team’s recommendations included:

  • Conducting regular on-site waste audits
  • Appointing a designated sustainability coordinator within donation centers
  • Distributing a shared waste reduction and recycling plan
  • Increased frequency of team training
  • Establishing more visual waste labeling systems
  • Setting up waste segregation and recycling stations

Accelerating the path to zero-waste-to-landfill

According to Laura Cappellucci, MBA ’17 and sustainability lead for BioLife Plasma Services at Takeda, the company is already using the analysis of non-recycled material to prioritize future diversion programs. Following the students’ recommendations, they plan to increase training frequency and enhance labeling throughout the center before the end of the year.

“The work of this team within the condensed 6-week period helped to accelerate our path to zero-waste-to-landfill by providing a deeper understanding of our current waste streams and prioritized opportunities for improvement,” says Cappellucci. “As a host, I was impressed by the team's ability to achieve so much in a short amount of time. They took the time to understand our core business operations, which allowed them to align their sustainability recommendations with our goal of providing a safe and excellent environment for plasma donations.”