Fostering a Culture of Environmental Stewardship through an Employee-Inspired Single-Stream Recycling Program

Fostering a Culture of Environmental Stewardship through an Employee-Inspired Single-Stream Recycling Program

A commitment to operating responsibly and sustainably is part of our company culture, and we continually develop and adapt solutions that reduce our impact on the environment. So when several of our employees voiced their desire to improve the management of waste in our dialysis centers, we saw an opportunity to set a new, environmentally responsible standard for our organization.

Identifying a Solution to Minimize Waste

Direct patient care staff have a firsthand view of the waste that gets thrown away on a regular basis by dialysis centers. To act more sustainably and reduce our impact on the environment, employees expressed the need for a company-wide program that would address opportunities for improving our waste management.

“Employees utilized several different internal channels, from employee forums, surveys, and emails to leaders, to share their concerns and offer potential solutions for reducing the raw material waste in our centers,” said Kyle Mangan, National Sustainability Manager.

In response, our team began reaching out to vendors and landlords at our dialysis locations to understand what opportunities were available to help us. The goal was to find a solution that would minimize the waste accumulated from the packaging and storage of healthcare supplies frequently used in centers. The volume of cardboard and plastic used in centers to provide patient care made finding a solution for recycling these materials a priority.

After weighing the options available and factoring in different municipal zoning and hauler restrictions, our team identified a solution and equipped employees with the resources to take action and reduce our environmental footprint.

Empowering Employees to Act Locally

To reduce the waste in our centers, we initially distributed cardboard and single-stream recycling dumpsters to a number of our Fresenius Kidney Care dialysis centers—a number that has grown to 1,388 centers as of December 31, 2020. Through this initiative, employees are empowered to act locally to recycle cardboard, plastic, and other recyclables, contributing to our efforts to make the world a cleaner and healthier place. Thanks to their active participation in this and other initiatives, we diverted 83,368 net tons of waste from the landfill in 2020.

Unfortunately, we’re not yet able to provide recycling dumpsters to all our centers due to factors outside of our control. In some locations, the municipality doesn’t offer recycling, the landlord of the building doesn’t provide recycling, or zoning laws prevent additional dumpsters. To expand our reach and impact, we are actively looking for opportunities to remove these barriers and roll out this program to more centers.

In addition to reducing our raw material waste, we have implemented several programs to minimize our footprint on our planet, including:

  • Recycling dialysis machine components. Reusing or recycling parts from dialysis machines that have been taken out of service extends the life of recovered components and lessens our environmental impact.
  • Recycling sharps containers. Utilizing reusable sharps containers — which can be emptied, washed, disinfected, and reused up to 600 times — allows us to eliminate waste and prevent carbon emission.
  • Using paper cups. By switching to paper cups — which decompose 15 times faster than plastic and pose less of a threat to air and water — we reduced the use of plastic cups by 5.8 million in 2020.
  • Reusing Mircera shippers. By moving to reusable containers to ship Mircera, an important agent used in dialysis treatment, we created a sustainable cycle that reduces the plastic sent to landfills. 
  • Recycling Blue Drums. Rather than disposing of the Blue Drums used to store NaturaLyte® and Citrasate®, we encourage our centers to hold on to these drums and send them back with the next delivery so they can be properly cleaned and reused.

To further generate fresh ideas, communicate best practices, and promote sustainable changes in our centers, we developed an internal Yammer page dedicated to recycling and environmental initiatives. The page offers recommendations for reusing materials commonly found in our centers, events and activities to promote recycling, and ideas for new waste-, water-, and energy-saving initiatives.

Setting the Standard

This employee-inspired initiative is a key part of our company’s dedication to corporate responsibility and also aligns with our Global Sustainability Program to implement holistic sustainability approaches. The environment is one of our eight sustainability pillars outlined in the company’s materiality analysis, found in our annual report, identifying sustainability priorities that offer the biggest impact on our business and contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development goals.  

As an industry leader, we have a unique opportunity to set the standard for how we care for patients and employees, as well as how we care for the environment. And as part of our commitment to support environmentally sustainable solutions, we continually look for ways to lessen our impact on the environment.   

To learn more about how we are making a positive impact on our society and our planet, visit our Corporate Responsibility pages.

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