Click on a category on the right to read a summary of the case studies in that area
Solid Waste: Recycle
Recycling is a viable and growing option for many materials. Retail stores can reduce disposal costs and sometimes gain revenue from selling separated recyclables. In addition to the financial gains, major environmental gains are realized from recycling materials rather than sending them to landfill.
Materials that need intensive primary processing, such as steel, plastic, and aluminum, recycling reduce emissions the most. According to national Canadian averages, recycling one tonne of aluminum instead of landfilling it results in approximately two tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions savings-as much as would fill a hockey rink to the top of the boards. With fine paper or cardboard, the savings are twice as large. Recycling plastics saves between 1.1 and 2.8 tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent per tonne of waste compared to landfilling. (Environment Canada)
Breadth of Practice
Recycling can take place throughout the life cycle of a product, starting with recycling waste materials produced during manufacturing. One retailer in the Greening Retail Database (Isku) has ensured that waste materials in their manufacturing plants get recycled. Also in the manufacturing stage, recycled products are incorporated into products. Three examples of this are found in the database.
By far the most common place for recycling by retailers is the store level. In our Greening Retail database, 17 out of 29 companies in the recycling section of the database have some sort of recycling program at the store level. If you include composting in this category, the number rises to 21.
Packaging is another area where recycled content and recyclable materials are found, and there are four case studies in the database that describe some instances of this practice. A growing number of retailers are also providing recycling facilities where customers can return products and packaging to be recycled (in eight case studies).
Retailers are becoming aware of the need to 'close the loop' on materials: in this concept, output from one product equals input for the next product. Three of the retailers in the database are closing the loop within their own sphere of control.
The following table summarizes the types of practices found in the Greening Retail best practice database that pertain to recycling, and includes the number of companies for which this practice is described in the database.
Recycling During Manufacturing
Recycling throughout a supply chain begins during the manufacture of products. For example, Isku reuses or recycles up to 98 per cent of the waste that is generated at the plant during the manufacturing process. Leftover timber and chips are incinerated by power plants, and leftover leather and padding are sold and reused.
Recycling at the Store Level
Recycling materials at the store level can often result in savings. For example, Nilson Ace Hardware, a family-owned and -operated retail hardware, feed, and seed sales company has reduced their waste disposal expenses by recycling all cardboard. This has resulted in a monthly savings of approximately $100.
One of the most successful programs at both plants of Ben & Jerry's ice-cream is the ability to sell corrugated ingredient boxes into a secondary market for resale. In conjunction with this project, they also sold baled stretch wrap for reuse in plastic lumber.
Many retailers set targets for diversion rates. For example, ASDA recycles, reuses or composts 20 per cent of their waste and has committed to an ambitious goal of sending nothing to landfill by 2010. Musgrave Group's target for 2004 was the diversion of 60 per cent (by weight) of the wastes generated in their facilities - by June 2004 they had increased their recycling rate to 59 per cent. In Germany, where strict regulations exist for waste disposal, Office Depot recycles 94 per cent of all end-of-life materials and the remaining 6 per cent of organic materials are incinerated. Likewise, Benelux recycled 83 per cent of its waste and incinerated 17 per cent.
Here are other examples of retail recycling achievements for various materials:
Composting organics is a form of recycling, and retailers are catching on to the practice. Here are a few instances of this:
Packaging can be made from recycled content and/or be recycled. Boots recently relaunched a toiletries range in new packaging that contains 30 per cent recycled plastic. For packaging that can be recycled, customers need to know what can or can't be recycled. Morrisons was singled out for its "Recyclopedia" campaign, a labelling system the retailer developed for its own-brand packaging. The system uses three on-pack symbols that say whether packaging is fully, partly or not yet recyclable.
Some retailers have opted for compostable packaging. The BioBag® is a new generation of eco-plastic, which Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) is phasing into its retail stores. BioBags are 100 per cent compostable and biodegradable, and will disintegrate in compost in 4-12 weeks, depending on conditions.
Recycled Content in Products
In addition to packaging materials with recycled content, there are many other recycled products available, such those below:
Recycling for Customers
Because recycling policies differ between jurisdictions, retailers will offer differing recycling facilities: for example, in some municipalities in Ontario, plastic bags can be recycled in blue boxes, and others may not. Retailers are offering recycling depots for both packaging and products.
Closing the Loop
Retailers who have control of various aspects of the supply chain can make sure that they are 'closing the loop' so to speak, for various materials. For instance, Co-op (UK) has closed the loop on paper waste by collecting waste office paper from head office and using it for the stock for own brand toilet tissue and kitchen towels.
Tesco hopes to be able to sell materials collected in recycling units to their packaging suppliers to ensure it goes back into Tesco packaging, thus, closing the recycling loop. At the Wal-Mart's environmentally friendly McKinney, TX store, there is no such thing as waste. Cooking oil used to fry foods and waste engine oil from the store's TLE service is collected and saved for use in a bio-fuel boiler.
This synopsis was compiled from case studies in the Greening Retail Best Practice Database. Sources for the information in the case studies are cited in the database.
This database contains links to case studies of environmental best practice from retailers around the world. You can search this database by the name of the company only, or you can find case studies that match one or several specific criteria, such as the type of retailer, the type of best practice, the company's country of origin, and/or project return on investment.
Simply select your search criteria in the spaces provided and hit the "search" button to come up with a list of the kinds of case studies you're looking for.
Please note that we cannot include all the practices of every retailer; therefore, the non-inclusion of a company, or of a certain area of practice for a company, does not mean that they do not presently have progressive environmental initiatives in these areas.
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