Sustainability in Health Care

3M Health Care. Sustainably Improving Lives.

Sustainability in Health Care

  • In the Health Care Business, 3M is working to make our manufacturing processes and internal operations more sustainable, reduce the amount of packaging we use, and create products that can help our customers solve their sustainability challenges.


  • You may be surprised to learn that hospitals face many sustainability challenges. For example, in the United States

    • Hospitals generate 5.9 million tons of waste each year (source=Practice Greenhealth website)
    • The median hospital using the EPA Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool used 315 gallons of water per bed per day. This makes hospitals one of the most water intensive facilities.
    • Hospitals use many chemicals of concern
    • Hospitals also use a significant amount of energy

Oral Care

  • Dental and orthodontic practices also have opportunities to operate more sustainably. For example, digital technologies can generate many sustainability benefits:

    • Electronic records can reduce the amount of paper used
    • Digital imaging/x-rays can reduce the use of lead foils and fixing chemicals
    • Digital technologies can mitigate the need for impressions

    Proper disposal of mercury-containing silver fillings is a second sustainability opportunity for dentists. Finally, recycling, LED operatory lighting, use of green cleaning chemicals, and use of ENERGY STAR rated equipment can also contribute. Clearly, there are many ways to “be green” in oral care.

Medical Sustainability Stories

  • Protecting Patients, Reducing Waste

    Medical tape rolls carried from room to room can harbor bacteria and spread infection. 3M designed Single Patient Use Rolls of our most popular tapes to help hospitals comply with infection control guidelines while saving money and avoiding waste.

    Protecting Patients, Reducing Waste
  • Removing Phthalates while Improving Performance

    Our 3M™ Littmann® Classic III™ stethoscopes use an innovative next generation tubing that is made without phthalates. As a bonus, this tubing has longer life due to improved resistance to skin oils and alcohol and is also less likely to pick up stains.

    Removing Phthalates while Improving Performance
  • Reducing Hospital-Acquired Complications

    3M software was used in Maryland to set hospital reimbursement rates based on each hospital's performance on specified quality-of-care measures. Participating hospitals across the state achieved a 15.25% decrease in Hospital Acquired Complications and $105.4 M in savings over a two-year period.

    Reducing Hospital-Acquired Complications
  • A Greener Way to Breathe

    3M Drug Delivery Systems Division developed the world’s first CFC-free metered dose inhaler. Inhalers produced by 3M have replaced CFCs used in asthma or COPD therapy by 600 tons/year.

    A Greener Way to Breathe

Oral Care Sustainability Stories

  • Never had It, Never will

    Amalgam is a mixture of metals, including mercury that can be used to fill cavities. Over 50 years ago, 3M commercialized natural-looking resin composites that do not contain mercury as an added ingredient. That’s something to smile about.

    Never had It, Never will
  • Digital Scanning Reduces Waste

    3M™ True Definition Scanner takes digital impressions of patient’s teeth which can help reduce waste by eliminating the need for elastomeric materials.

    Digital Scanning Reduces Waste
  • Clarity™ ADVANCED Ceramic Braces

    Through advanced design and materials, 3M developed ceramic orthodontic braces that no longer require metal. This change reduces metal used and metal waste during production. Clarity ADVANCED braces look great during treatment, increasing overall patient satisfaction.

    Clarity™ ADVANCED Ceramic Braces
  • APC™ Flash-Free Adhesive

    3M has combined its expertise in fiber technology and adhesive science to create advanced APC™ Flash-Free Adhesive for orthodontic bonding. Now there is no excess adhesive to remove when braces are bonded to teeth, reducing waste and saving time for everyone.

    APC™ Flash-Free Adhesive

Food Safety Sustainability Stories

  • Keeping our Food Supply Safe!

    3M™ Petrifilm™ Plates are sample-ready media used to detect and count bacteria. Compared to traditional agar methods, 3M Petrifilm Plates use >75% less energy, use 80% less water, produce 75% less GHG, and create ≈66% less waste.

    Keeping our Food Supply Safe!
  • Pathogen testing, pure and simple. Now with less waste.

    In the U.S., the 3M™ Molecular Detection Assays are now approved to ship under ambient conditions, eliminating the need for special coolers or cold packs. This change results in 50% packaging weight reduction!

    Pathogen testing, pure and simple. Now with less waste.
  • See with Accuracy. 3M™ Clean-Trace™ Hygiene Monitoring System

    The 3M™ Clean-Trace™ Hygiene Monitoring System provides the most reliable data on the market so you prevent wasting time, money, and production with unnecessary recleaning.

    See with Accuracy. 3M™ Clean-Trace™ Hygiene Monitoring System
  • Clean Water for All

    As part of our commitment to excellence in education, 3M Food Safety is pleased to offer 3M Petrifilm™ Plates to Engineers without Borders USA to support their humanitarian efforts to access clean water.

    Clean Water for All

Packaging & Manufacturing Sustainability Stories

  • Better packaging for the best wrap!

    3M™ Coban™ Self-Adherent Wrap sticks to itself but not to other materials or skin. It can provide compression or support, or secure devices or dressings. To improve sustainability, Coban™ packaging was optimized to save ~450,000 lbs of material/yr.

    Better packaging for the best wrap!
  • Environmental Stewardship in Our Communities

    3M Drug Delivery Systems Division’s Northridge, CA facility reduced landfill waste by 33% in 2014 through improved waste segregation.

    Environmental Stewardship in Our Communities
  • 3M Unitek Monrovia Plant achieves 67% Recycle Rate!

    Over two thirds of the waste generated in the Monrovia plant of 3M Unitek is recycled including metals, plastics, cardboard and paper. The facility has achieved 5 consecutive years of waste reduction.

    3M Unitek Monrovia Plant achieves 67% Recycle Rate!
  • “Lightweighting” our Packaging

    Our team worked to “lightweight” the 3M™ Ioban™ 2 Anti-microbial Incise Drape packaging by changing the primary box from corrugated material to paperboard Material. This eliminated ~220,000 lbs/year!

    “Lightweighting” our Packaging

Social Sustainability Stories

  • Breast Cancer Awareness

    3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes support the American Cancer Society by giving $5 for every 3M™ Littmann® Breast Cancer Awareness Special Edition Stethoscope sold. Since 2008, we have contributed ≈$350,000 to support the fight against breast cancer.

    Breast Cancer Awareness
  • Inspiring the Next Generation of Innovators

    Our scientists from 3M Drug Delivery System’s Loughborough, UK site work with local area schools to engage young people in STEM through the Young Innovator’s Challenge.

    Inspiring the Next Generation of Innovators
  • 3M Official Sponsor of Smiles Change Lives®

    Smiles Change Lives® is a nationwide nonprofit that provides access to life-changing orthodontic treatment for children from low-income families. Since 1997, more than 6,000 children have been given new smiles, renewed hope and restored self-esteem.

    3M Official Sponsor of Smiles Change Lives®
  • Healthy Smiles for the Rest of their Lives

    ADA's Give Kids A Smile® program enhances the oral health of needy children. Each year, approximately 350,000 children benefit from more than 1,500 events, all because of the efforts of 40,000+ annual volunteers. 3M ESPE Dental is a proud sponsor.

    Healthy Smiles for the Rest of their Lives

Additional Resources