Medical device manufacturers and distributors can reduce product and packaging waste through partnerships that align with financial, sustainability, and corporate goals.

Holly Gamage, Senior director of Fullcircle

September 22, 2021

4 Min Read
Image by anncapictures from Pixabay

Companies and manufacturers across the globe are looking for ways to become more environmentally friendly and reach corporate sustainability goals. While eliminating medical device waste, recycling as much material as possible, and building scalable, innovative programs can all be daunting undertakings, they are beneficial for all parties involved and our environment.

Waste disposal and management affects more than just the bottom line. It has an undeniable connection to the future of the environment, consumers, and employees. When it comes to finding effective ways to eliminate medical device waste, it often boils down to finding the right waste management partner that also prioritizes sustainability. The healthcare industry, one of the world’s fastest growing industries, has the ability to make a lasting and positive environmental impact.

Fortunately, there are ways for equipment manufacturers and distributors of medical devices to adapt to methods of effectively eliminating medical device waste while also maintaining a positive brand presence and using solutions to their advantage. Leaders in the space have a keen focus on brand protection and brand integrity, ensuring that medical devices and packaging that are non-viable for business or consumer use do not end up in the wrong hands. When updated versions of technology replace older versions, there may be an overstock of supply, or materials are considered defective, industry leaders must ensure that the items are destroyed properly and preferably in a sustainable manner.

Identifying Areas of Risk

One area to note for risk avoidance is working to prevent product diversion and guaranteeing all materials are destroyed per the customer’s requirements. The right waste partner allows the manufacturer to focus on their core business, while the partner closely tracks the non-viable medical device/packaging from pick up to final destination to ensure it is rendered unusable and cannot be utilized in an unintended manner or placed on the black market. A Certificate of Destruction (COD) should also always be provided, to document the receipt and destruction of non-viable waste. A partner that is knowledgeable of the company’s goals and regulations will seamlessly see the entire process through to its final reuse or recycling destination.

Tailored Sustainability Program

The term “cradle to grave” refers to the long-term waste management process, encompassing everything from the beginning to end of a product’s lifecycle. Be it common waste items like glucose monitors or pregnancy kits, or more complex devices or machinery, it is important to have a waste management program that upholds compliance with environmental regulations. For example, if an incident happens to occur during the waste’s lifecycle, the generator could be held liable. This could easily result in financial penalties and a negative impact on the environment and brand reputation.

A waste journey can be complex and companies must regularly focus on risk avoidance, brand image, and state-by-state regulations as they evolve each year. Therefore, to manage waste with a sustainability lens and leave a positive environmental footprint on the planet, there is one key step that every medical device manufacturer should consider: partnering with the right waste vendor.

Values Found in the Right Vendor Partner

When looking for the right sustainability vendor to minimize waste and/or achieve zero waste, medical device companies should identify one that has a shared goal and vision for how the company can take steps to becoming more sustainable. The right partner will take into account the entire operation and customize waste solutions to fit the customer’s needs.

A partner should not have any limitations on the type of waste problem an organization is encountering. As there are four categories of medical device waste (hazardous, infectious, radioactive, and general) according to the World Health Organization, the right partner will take a dedicated, personalized approach to recycling and beneficially reusing waste that would otherwise end up in landfills. In fact, in 2018, nearly 50% of all waste in the U.S. was sent to a landfill.

An experienced waste and recycling management partner in the medical device industry is very important. While there are waste management vendors that do not hold sustainability goals as a top priority, it is critical that sustainability goals are a part of the complete journey as they will impact the future of any industry.

Another important quality of a partner is their ability to offer enhanced data tracking and reporting of waste stream management and how they align with financial, sustainability, and corporate goals. Depending on the preferred cadence outlined by the organization, these reports provide intricate insight on areas of improvement and trending.

Reducing Waste Streams

At the end of the day, consumers are willing to pay more for brands that have a focus on sustainability. Transparency is key and people want to know where companies are in their sustainability journeys, how they are producing less waste, and how they are focusing on product reuse when possible. Environmental responsibility is not a phase that will become less important over time. It is a cohesive effort of every industry working together to make the planet a better place.

With the right partner, medical device manufacturers can have the assurance, support, experience, and vision to effectively manage and reduce waste streams.

About the Author(s)

Holly Gamage

Senior director of Fullcircle, Clean Earth

Holly Gamage is the senior director of Clean Earth’s Fullcircle business, an Advanced Waste Lifecycle Program. This program strategically analyzes waste and all related byproducts at each source of generation, including upstream, then builds and offers solutions for recycling and beneficial reuse alternatives for the material. Gamage is responsible for the overall operations, client services, innovation, continuous improvement, development and implementation of Fullcircle. Her leadership has led to teams providing creative innovative solutions for recycling, minimizing waste and building sustainable client partnerships and superior customer-centric programs exceeding client key performance indicators (KPIs).

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