In December 2020, Medline launched the Sustainable Packaging Lab, a cross-functional program harnessing the collaborative expertise of employees specializing in research and development, engineering, packaging and product design, to tackle all aspects of waste in the company’s packaging and product transportation process.
In just one year, the Sustainable Packaging Lab’s efforts have resulted in a 455,000-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.
In recognition of the Sustainable Packaging Lab’s successes, Medline was recently awarded a 2021 Sustainability, Environmental Achievement and Leadership (SEAL) Business Sustainability Award in the category of Environmental Initiatives. The annual SEAL Awards recognize the 50 most sustainable companies in the world and the most impactful and innovative environmental initiatives.
“Winning a SEAL Business Sustainability Award for environmental initiatives is an exciting recognition of Medline’s commitment to leadership and transparency in the development of our products, which are essential to supporting a healthy and vibrant healthcare ecosystem across the continuum of care,” said Francesca Olivier, senior director of social responsibility at Medline. “Our Sustainable Packaging Lab is making an impact as our organization expands its focus on environmental, social, and governance issues that drive change in our industry and business as a whole.”
Reducing waste and weight in cold chain packaging
The Sustainable Packaging Lab first sought to minimize waste in cold chain packaging. Cold chain packaging ensures that products reach their destination at a set temperature, which is critical in healthcare. Previous cold chain containers underutilized space and generated unnecessary waste. After review by the Sustainable Packaging Lab, more sustainable delivery, shipping and storing methods were implemented, and corrugated dividers and carton pads were replaced with thinner, recyclable chipboard. These upgrades resulted in 50,000 pounds of annual raw material savings during the first year of the program.
Medline also began systematically integrating recycled or renewable material into cold chain packaging, which now includes:
- Cartons and carton liners made from 100% recyclable material that are also 100% recyclable.
- Coolers that arrive disassembled, allowing for more liners per shipment, saving on space and fuel emissions.
- Drain-safe gels to cool the products during transport. Fewer gel packs are also included in each shipment.
Systemic changes throughout Medline products and packaging
More broadly, the Sustainable Packaging Lab also:
- Redesigned products to allow for the shipment of more product and packaging in a smaller space, thereby reducing the total packaging and shipping requirements.
- Implemented a stock-keeping unit (SKU) consolidation service, available to all customers, requiring less space on shelves and in warehouses.
- Eliminated polystyrene (plastic foam), which is not easily recycled, in Medline facilities and packaging.
“The Sustainable Packaging Lab is helping to reduce Medline’s overall carbon footprint by lowering the quantity of waste production, increasing the use of eco-friendly materials, and eliminating the use of polystyrene in our facilities,” said Olivier. “Through these efforts, Medline is setting an example in the medical device industry for how companies can make a positive impact on the environment.”
Learn more about how Medline is helping to make healthcare more sustainable.