Waste and recycling management

Natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce all over the world. We can only operate sustainably if we use the raw materials available to us efficiently. This also includes the responsible handling of waste - because it contains valuable resources that can be returned to production. Through systematic waste management we reduce our material consumption and minimize the amount of waste produced. In the health sector, strict hygiene requirements apply to the materials used and to the safe disposal of hazardous waste. With clear internal guidelines and comprehensive controls, we ensure that these are complied with.

Our approach

GRI 306-3

As a health care Group, Fresenius believes that professional, safe waste disposal goes hand in hand with the requirements of hygiene and sterility in production processes and treatments in hospitals. Our approach extends from the selection of suitable disposal containers to cleaning and sterilization procedures and the occupational safety of our employees in the disposal of hazardous, e.g., infectious, waste.

The handling of waste in the health sector is strictly regulated. Fundamentally, waste must not pose a danger to our patients, our employees, or the environment. Our production processes and our treatments in health care facilities must always be hygienic and sterile. All business segments must always dispose of their waste professionally and safely. As the business models of our business segments are very different, Fresenius manages waste management on a decentralized basis.

The four business segments each ensure that all Fresenius sites comply with the laws and regulations applicable to waste disposal. The four divisions are responsible for assessing individual risks and, if necessary, establishing internal guidelines for dealing with waste. The business segments provide training to our employees and carry out checks to ensure that the standards contained therein are adhered to.

Fresenius Medical Care

In 2020, Fresenius Medical Care increased its focus on waste. The company analyzed the waste streams of its manufacturing sites and clinics in all of its regions, to cover applicable laws and regulations. Fresenius Medical Care aims to continuously improve its waste management. In the context of the Global Sustainability Program, Fresenius Medical Care is planning to develop a global approach to consolidate waste data and define reduction targets.

Waste initiatives in 2020 targeted the recycling and reuse of resources. To improve its environmental impact, Fresenius Medical Care intends to increase the recycle rate and separate materials more effectively. The company launched initiatives at various sites to recycle materials such as paper, cardboard boxes, aluminum and metal cans as well as plastic canisters, bags and bottles. By doing so, the company reduced the amount of landfill waste.

Fresenius Kabi

Waste at Fresenius Kabi is mainly generated as by-products of production processes or packaging material of the product containers in hospitals and private or nursing homes. This includes non-hazardous as well as hazardous waste, i. e. solvents, cytostatics, or antibiotics. To a large extent, the internally generated waste is recycled. Non-recyclable hazardous waste is mainly incinerated, and the resulting energy recovered.

The company’s global environmental standard operating procedures include global instructions for waste management. The instructions build a global framework for the business segment’s waste management and set minimum requirements for Fresenius Kabi’s own facilities.

Each of Fresenius Kabi’s manufacturing sites is required to separate its waste according to local regulations and to store the waste considering measures to protect the environment, e.g. to avoid contamination. The local Fresenius Kabi organizations are responsible for the disposal of waste in accordance with the applicable local regulations. If necessary, local training courses on waste management are conducted. Regular audits of the commissioned waste disposal companies are conducted by the local organization to ensure compliance with the applicable local regulations.

As part of the evaluation of ISO-14001-certified organizations processes that significantly contribute to the generation of waste as well as the company’s influence on these processes are identified. The business segment also considers the conservation of resources and options for recycling or reuse of the generated waste. Based on the evaluation, measures are implemented to reduce waste or increase the recycling rate.

In 2020, the share of recycled waste1 in the total internally generated waste from manufacturing plants, compounding centers, and logistics sites changed as follows: for non-hazardous waste, the proportion decreased from 76% to 74% compared to the previous year; for hazardous waste, it increased from 79% to 85% in the same period.2 The share of recycled waste in total waste includes waste that is sent for recycling, reuse, and recovery, including energy recovery. Environment (Chapter Fresenius Kabi)

1 As some confirmations, for example of the recovery quantity, are only available after the report has been prepared, these figures are estimated in some case.
2 Hazardous / non-hazardous waste in accordance with the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal of March 22, 1989.

Fresenius Helios

Fresenius Helios sees waste disposal management as a process. This begins with waste avoidance and continues through to consistent recycling or environmentally friendly disposal. In hospital operations, the business segment must always meet the strict hygiene requirements: medical instruments and aids are cleaned and packed separately so that they can be sterile reused. In addition, various disposable medical products are used. This results in waste, the professional and safe disposal of which must be guaranteed. The Fresenius Helios facilities are subject to strict regulations. Specially trained personnel in the clinics are responsible for ensuring that the respective requirements are met.

When disposing of waste, Fresenius Helios must take into account not only the requirements of environmental protection, occupational safety, and infection control, but also specific hospital hygiene requirements. Appropriate disposal containers and cleaning and sterilization procedures must be used. As employees sometimes dispose of hazardous, e.g., infectious waste, they must be protected by occupational safety measures.

As the largest private hospital operator in Germany, Fresenius Helios has the option of using multi-regional companies for waste disposal. There are dedicated disposal channels and procedures for handling waste from hospital operations to ensure safe disposal. To this end, Helios Germany bundles the various types of waste in clusters and assigns them to disposal companies. Each cluster can cooperate with established contractual partners and local waste management companies.
In 2020, Helios Germany produced around 19,900 tons of waste. Of that, around 98% was non-hazardous – this includes, for example, wound and plaster bandages, disposable clothing, and household garbage. The remaining 2% entail waste that poses a threat to health and the environment - such as infectious waste, dangerous chemicals, or critical pharmaceuticals. Special procedures ensure safe disposal.

Helios Spain classifies its waste into non-sanitary waste such as paper, plastic, or glass; non-hazardous sanitary waste such as medical gloves or bandages; biological waste; chemical waste; and cytostatic ‑ particularly hazardous, cell growth inhibiting - waste. Helios Spain generated 14,342 tons of non-hazardous waste in 2020. This waste is separated for further processing. Helios Spain controls the cooperation with waste management companies centrally. During the same period, 2,707 tons of waste were classified as hazardous; this waste was disposed of by specialist service providers. Biological sanitary waste is incinerated or treated in a way that makes it less hazardous (inerted), depending on the hazard, and sent to a safe landfill. The waste management systems of all Helios Spain clinics are regularly reviewed in self-evaluations and annual internal and external independent audits. Environment (Chapter Fresenius Helios)

Fresenius Vamed

The waste generated in all of Fresenius Vamed's business processes is disposed of in accordance with regional, national and industry-specific regulations. The local management of the health care facilities is responsible for compliance with the guidelines. Reusable waste is processed in respective recycling processes. Other waste is disposed of by composting or incineration or is sent to landfill. For clinical and hazardous waste, the individual facilities of Fresenius Vamed cooperate with local disposal companies, who ensure that the waste is disposed of in compliance with the law.

Fresenius Vamed also implements recycling initiatives in its facilities. The business segment works together with patients to ensure correct waste separation, for example. The health care facilities built by Fresenius Vamed use construction and sanitation technology that enables optimal resource management adapted to local regulations. The provision of technical management services is a major business segment of Fresenius Vamed. One focus of our activities is to ensure the longevity of technical systems through maintenance and repair. Environment (Chapter Fresenius Vamed)


No Group results are available for waste management in fiscal 2020. Although no effects can yet be reported at Group level, we report on the measures initiated in the reporting year and related progress in the business segments.

Water management

Climate protection – energy and emissions