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Reducing waste to
protect the environment

Promoting environmental sustainability by reducing and recycling

Our planet bears proof of an indisputable truth: waste is piling up in landfills and oceans around the world. Unfortunately, medical devices contribute to that waste. From single-use syringes to decommissioned insulin pumps, there is an environmental cost to the safe delivery of healthcare. As a leader in the medical device industry, we’re tackling product waste and striving for a more sustainable future.

Reimagining our work to reduce and recycle

Hospitals in the United States produce more than 5 million tons of medical waste each year. Items used in operating rooms must be sterile, which creates the need for single-use items, most of which are either incinerated or sent to a landfill for disposal. We work with hospitals around the world to reduce waste. In FY23, we set five new product stewardship targets:

  • Publish partial life cycle assessments (LCAs) for 100% of products and additionally publish full LCAs for 50% of products
  • Convert 50% of eligible product codes to electronic Instructions for Use within applicable regions
  • Integrate circularity and eco-design criteria into the New Product Development process
  • Achieve one of the following qualities for 95% of eligible plastic packaging: is industrially recyclable, contains postindustrial recycled content, demonstrates optimized design (by volume, weight, or thickness)
  • Reduce packaging for 20 additional high-volume products for a total of 50% reduction against the FY21 baseline

While we help healthcare systems reduce medical waste, we also work to reduce waste across our operational spectrum – from research and development to manufacturing and distribution. We are constantly looking for new ways to reduce and recycle. Sometimes this means reimagining the way we do our work. At one of our facilities in Galway, Ireland, for example, we changed the way we used chemicals in the manufacturing process to help cut total waste generation by 34%.

Many of our devices are implanted in the body, so recycling is difficult. But we do look for opportunities to refurbish and reprocess select products to give them a second life when appropriate. For example, we collect:

  • Nellcor™ pulse oximetry devices to recycle or remanufacture
  • MyCareLink™ Heart monitors to refurbish and redeploy

In FY23, we took back four million products, diverting 217 metric tons of waste from landfills.

Warehouse worker packing supplies

Less packaging, less waste

Plastics and other packaging materials are important to the safe delivery of medical devices. But plastic pollution is a growing global issue. As a member of the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council, we are working on economically viable solutions. For example, in FY21, we shrank the sterile packaging volume for our spinal cord stimulation needles, reducing GHG emissions related to this product.

A more environmentally sustainable supply chain

Reducing packaging waste requires working with vendors in our supply chain. PKG Packaging is a small, minority-owned business based in Oxnard, California, that specializes in innovative and sustainable packaging for businesses. Since 1998, they have provided Medtronic with biodegradable and compostable packaging solutions for insulin pumps used by patients with diabetes.

Packaging workers sealing boxes

Employees go green — small changes, big difference

Being a good environmental steward means creating a culture where employees feel empowered to drive sustainability in the workplace. Our employees are leading efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle items used in our offices around the world. Under one global, employee-led initiative, we made our meetings “greener” by eliminating plastic bottles, reducing ground transportation, and eliminating paper by using a mobile meeting app. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have pivoted to virtual meetings, which benefits the environment and reduces our costs. For example, during the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, we saved 29,568 pounds of paper, 960 pounds of plastic water bottles, and 384,000 pounds of jet fuel.

Office workers at desks

In 2019, by promoting reusable utensils, cups, and dishes, employees in our Fort Worth, Texas, office eliminated more than 600,000 Styrofoam cups at an annual cost savings of $12,000. They also started a weekly cleanup of the facility and surrounding property, a gardening club, and two recycling programs.

"If everyone here stopped using Styrofoam, that's 3,000 cups a week saved from the landfill,” said Sandra Rosas, a project manager who led the initiative. “It only takes a small change to make a big difference."

Medtronic is committed to reducing waste and working with healthcare systems and supply chains to do the same. From our office workers to the engineers working in labs, each of us can be part of the solution. The path ahead is challenging, but together we can make great progress.