With the recent addition of solar panels at Medline’s distribution center in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, the company now has eight facilities in the U.S. and around the world with solar capabilities spanning nearly 3 million square feet of rooftop. To date, solar-generated energy at Medline facilities has resulted in an estimated carbon emission reduction of 27,941 metric tons—equivalent to removing 6,077 passenger vehicles from the road for one year, or burning more than 3 million gallons of gasoline.
Solar panel installations also are underway at Medline facilities in Montgomery, New York and Perryville, Maryland, and construction soon will begin on a new system in Grayslake, Illinois. From 2020 through the first quarter of 2022, Medline increased its solar investment from $12.6 million to $34.2 million. By year-end 2022, the amount of renewable energy produced by Medline solar installations is expected to nearly triple from 10 million kilowatts (kWh) in 2021 to 28 million kWh.
Ten years ago, Medline launched a sustainability program to conserve energy and water and limit landfill waste. Today, the company’s sustainability efforts encompass nearly every aspect of Medline’s operations at almost all facilities. Medline also recycles and reprocesses medical equipment and supplies, creates innovative sustainable packing solutions and delivery standards, utilizes electric transport vehicles, adheres to the highest fuel efficiency standards and offers a “Green Product Portfolio” of eco-friendly medical supplies.
Medline also is in the process of transitioning from a mature Corporate Social Responsibility program to a holistic Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) model, with a greater emphasis on measurable results.
“Medline is committed to helping healthcare run more sustainably,” said Francesca Olivier, Medline senior director, ESG and strategic content. “This includes implementing standards and practices that are scalable and eco-friendly, while encouraging our partners to do the same. In just 10 years, our cost and energy savings have been substantial, and we’re just getting started. Sustainability is and will continue to be at the forefront as we enter into this new phase of our commitment to people and the planet.”
Real-world, eco-friendly solutions
Medline’s other sustainability efforts, to date, include:
- Heating, cooling and construction
- LEED certification. Approximately 98% of Medline distribution centers in the U.S. are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified or pending certification, representing over 19.2 million out of 19.7 million square feet of space. The LEED certification reflects best construction practices, proven to reduce energy and water use, lower operating costs, and improve air quality and employee productivity.
- ISO global environmental standards. Nine Medline facilities are certified “ISO 14001,” a set of global environmental standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
- Recycling and reprocessing
- Medical device reprocessing. For more than 20 years, Medline ReNewal has reprocessed single-use devices that clinicians typically throw away, restoring them to like-new condition. In 2021, ReNewal reprocessed 6,344,304 devices (equivalent to 39,137,130 water bottles), and diverted 1,095,793 pounds of waste from landfills.
- Surgical glove recycling. Medline transforms exam gloves into clean, renewable energy through its Gloves Waste-to-Energy program. Since the program’s inception in 2018, more than 2,100 pounds of exam gloves from 23 different partners have been converted into clean energy.
- Medical equipment donations. Surplus products are distributed to international aid organizations serving the most vulnerable populations. In 2020 alone, 513 metric tons of waste was diverted from landfills by providing unused supplies to healthcare facilities in low-resource countries.
- Sustainability throughout the supply chain
- Sustainable packaging. Medline’s Sustainable Packaging Lab focuses on reimagining the way products are packaged and delivered. In just one year, the Sustainable Packaging Lab’s efforts have resulted in a 510,438-pound reduction in packaging-related waste, and the program is on track to reach one million pounds of diverted, reduced waste by the second quarter of 2022. Earlier this year, the program won a 2021 Sustainability, Environmental Achievement and Leadership (SEAL) Business Sustainability Award in the category of Environmental Initiatives.
- Product delivery in reusable containers. Medline’s tote exchange program delivers products in reusable totes instead of cardboard boxes.
- Green Product Portfolio. Medline offers its customers a 50-category Green Product Portfolio — alternative cleaning products without harsh chemicals, responsibly manufactured products that incorporate recycled materials or less packaging, and products meeting globally recognized environmental certifications, including Green Seal Certified®, Oeko-Tex® and FSC® 50.
- Fuel efficiency standards and incentives. MedTrans, Medline’s private truck fleet, has instituted across-the-board fuel and emissions-reducing standards and practices. These include Dynamic Route Planning to reduce miles and improve trailer utilization; the purchase and utilization of the most efficient diesel-fueled trucks; and the incentivization of all drivers to avoid hard stops, heavy acceleration, high speeds and long periods of idling.
- Electric semitruck pilot program. As part of a pilot program in partnership with Volvo Trucks North America, MedTrans is utilizing a fully electric semitruck to make deliveries to Southern California hospital systems. In less than one year, the truck has saved 8.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to 1.1 home’s energy use for one year, charging 1,077,731 smartphones, or burning 9,793 pounds of coal.
- EPA partnership. Medline has served as an Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay® Transport partner for the past 10 years, tracking and sharing information on the company’s fuel use and freight emissions.
“Medline is committed to protecting our planet and creating sustainable solutions for our partners across the healthcare continuum,” said Trenton Bortz, Medline sustainability specialist. “We look forward to continued efforts and innovation to help minimize climate change while protecting the world’s resources.”
Learn more about Medline’s sustainability efforts.
Read the related story, “How healthcare can combat climate change and build a resilient supply chain,” on Insights & Strategies.