Reducing Our environmental impact
We each have a role to play in lightening our impact on the planet. From proper disposal of solid and medical waste to water and energy conservation, at Fresenius Medical Care North America, we are committed to limiting climate change and supporting environmentally sustainable solutions. Successes include solar panel installments, projects to recycle relevant materials, and zero-waste-to-landfill initiatives. As part of a global company, many regions contribute to our collective impact.
126 net tons
of plastics and metal diverted from landfills and recycled from retired dialysis machines.
of plastics recycled and kept out of landfills annually through our Reusable Sharps Container Program.
blue drums reused, preventing more than 1,500 tons of plastic from going into landfills.
Ways We Are Reducing Our Environmental Impact
2008 DIALYSIS MACHINES AND AQUABPLUS™ WATER TREATMENT SYSTEMS
In our day-to-day business, water plays a highly important role as an essential component of renal replacement therapy by dialysis. The fact that 120-150 liters of dialysis fluid circulate against a patient’s blood three times a week, means that dialysis patients are exposed to 30-40 times more water than the general population. Based on these considerations, it’s critical that dialysis water purity complies with higher standards than conventional tap water to minimize the emerging risks.
A few years ago, Fresenius Medical Care Renal Technologies assessed its dialysis and water purification systems and identified opportunities for conservation. We started initiatives to reduce the amount of water and power our machines consume and confirm that optimal settings were being used at dialysis centers across the country.
POWERING OUR BUSINESS RESPONSIBLY
Earlier this year, we shared our commitment to the environment by announcing our global climate targets. As a transition activity toward our global climate goal development, in the U.S. we purchased and retired 140,000 MWh worth of Green-e Certified Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for 2021 to reduce our carbon footprint, amounting to about 100,000 CO2e equivalent.
In 2018, we installed solar panels on seven of our centers. With these solar panels, we have access to energy data that shows us how we are operating most efficiently and helps us optimize our operations. We are committed to sustainable energy solutions, and increasing our reliance on renewable energy resources will play a key role in helping us achieve our climate goals.
THE SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY OF 2008T BLUESTARTM DIALYSIS MACHINES
Dialysis machines and water purification systems are indispensable to providing therapy for people with end stage renal disease. In the process, however, this equipment also uses large quantities of water and electricity as part of daily operations.
In addition to water conservation features, in 2018, Fresenius Renal Technologies upgraded the technology in the flagship 2008T dialysis machine to include “low power mode,” which basically puts the dialysis machine into sleep mode — delivering power to only the machine’s electronics and turning off all pumps, valves, and modules when dialysis is not taking place. As soon as the keyboard, touchpad, or touchscreen is engaged, the machine “wakes up” again. In low power mode, the 2008T BlueStar machine’s run clock is also turned off, which can reduce the annual run time by 200 hours.
Building Energy Management System
We are committed to reducing our fossil fuel consumption while maintaining a safe and comfortable environment for our staff and patients. As part of this commitment, in 2021 we piloted a new Building Energy Management System (BEMS) that allows us to centrally control the temperature for our dialysis centers. The pilot included 116 centers, and key benefits include energy savings and reduced operational costs, reduced environmental impact, improved maintenance process, and minimized distraction for staff involved in temperature management. We plan to roll out the BEMS to approximately 800 additional centers in 2022.
SWITCHING TO SUSTAINABLE LIGHTS
For more than six years, we have been installing LED fixtures and associated lighting controls in our buildings. We’ve installed or upgraded to LED light fixtures at more than 600 centers and office locations, including 46 new centers in 2021. Along with these fixtures, occupancy sensors and lighting control panels minimize the amount of time that the fixtures are illuminated. In 2022, we plan to install LED light fixtures in around 50 new center locations.
Recycling dialysis machine components
About 67 percent of conventional dialysis machines are composed of recyclable metals such as copper, aluminum, and steel. Often, the plastic, bulbs, and circuit boards can be recycled as well. We use environmentally conscious practices to reduce waste from dialysis machines taken out of service after we purchase new ones. In 2021, we diverted 126 net tons of plastics and metals from landfills by reusing or recycling parts from 1,453 retired machines. This is a 41 percent decrease in retired machines from the previous year due to extending the useful life of a dialysis machine. In this process, we're reducing our environmental impact and extending the life of recovered components.
Recycling sharps containers
Plastic containers help dialysis centers safely and efficiently dispose of needles and other sharp objects. In the past, these receptacles were filled once, then autoclaved, shredded, and sent to landfills, releasing thousands of pounds of carbon into the atmosphere as they decayed. We shifted to reusable sharps containers, which can be emptied, washed, disinfected, and reused up to 600 times. In 2021, we reused 1,263,000 containers, eliminating 1,162 tons of waste and preventing 400 tons of carbon emissions.
using paper cups
Dialysis centers use more than 30 million small cups per year to distribute patient medications, and in years past our centers used plastic cups. By switching to paper cups — which decompose 15 times faster than plastic and pose less of a threat to air and water — we reduce the use of plastic cups. During 2021 all centers moved to paper cups, resulting in a decrease of more than 12 million plastic cups.
REUSABLE MIRCERA SHIPPERS
Mircera is an agent used to treat anemia associated with chronic kidney disease and is an important component of the dialysis process. In years past, Styrofoam containers with ice packs were used to ship Mircera and disposed of after a single use, creating unnecessary amounts of waste. We’ve since changed to a reusable container that is emptied, returned, cleaned, and put back into circulation. Not only does this create a sustainable cycle, but it also creates less work for our employees and reduces the cost of Mircera shippers. By moving to reusable containers for Mircera, we kept more than 29,600 plastic containers out of landfills in 2021.
RECYCLING BLUE DRUMS
Our dialysis centers use 55-gallon blue drums for NaturaLyte® and Citrasate®, two concentrates needed for blood filtration. For several years, our centers have sent empty containers back with the delivery driver after a new shipment. Once returned to the warehouse, they undergo a quality check, get cleaned, and refilled for another use. In 2021, more than 141,300 drums were returned for reuse over the course of the year.
RECYCLING CARDBOARD AND PLASTIC
More than 50 percent of centers recycle cardboard, plastic, and other materials, diverting 18,682 net tons of waste from landfills. This is a 7 percent increase in recycling from 2020. We recognize that our acquisitions and new locations give us an opportunity to increase this further.
As an administrative assistant in Baraboo, Wisconsin, Charlene Brennan has taken several steps to make a difference at work. Conscious of the collective waste created by single-use items, Charlene ditched the disposables in her center’s break room and encouraged employees to bring in reusable plates, cups, and glasses from home, and bought silverware from a secondhand store, saving the center hundreds of dollars per year.
Charlene also champions returning shipping boxes and packaging from Mircera (an agent used to treat anemia associated with chronic kidney disease). “Our centers receive as many as 70,000 such containers a year, each with Styrofoam inserts and nearly two dozen ice packs,” notes Brennan. “When sent back to the company, they are cleaned and put back into use. This simple step — returning the box — avoids all of this reusable material from going to landfills.”
Charlene Brennan, Administrative Assistant, Fresenius Kidney Care
All sustainability data is from Fresenius Medical Care North America for 2021 unless otherwise noted.