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Reducing waste to
protect the environment
Hospitals in the United States produce more than 5 million tons of medical waste each year.1 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 early FY22, we set two new product stewardship targets:
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:
In FY22, we took back more than 6.2 million products, diverting more than 300 metric tons of waste from landfills.
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.2 For example, in FY21, we shrank the sterile packaging volume for our spinal cord stimulation needles, reducing GHG emissions related to this product.
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.
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.
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.