Commitment Helps Drive Successful Retail Recycling Solutions

Recycling goals are achieved as more retailers focus on employee and customer awareness

When Call2Recycle®, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting battery recycling, began in 1994, its founders knew that one key to educating and driving consumer participation was the formation of alliances with retailers, manufacturers, municipalities and businesses. Working collaboratively with program participants and supporters, Call2Recycle has kept more than 70 million rechargeable batteries and their mineral-rich components out of the waste stream.

Retailers specifically have played an instrumental role in Call2Recycle’s successful collection and recycling of batteries.  Not only have they embraced a strong working relationship with Call2Recycle, they have used its mission to help create popular in-store “take-back” programs managed by employees and used more and more by customers. These programs are effective because all participants experience the benefits.

Some of these benefits are reported in recent research commissioned by Call2Recycle and conducted by IPSOS, a global independent market research company. Results support the premise that retail take back programs are a “win-win-win” – for the environment, stores and their employees, as well as customers.

More than 40 percent of people who recycle rechargeable batteries, among other products, do so at a retail store. They cite convenience and the ability to shop as main reasons for doing so.  More than 50 percent who drop-off batteries or cellphones at a store for recycling stay and shop for replacements of the items they just turned in. This “drop and shop” phenomenon can add up to significant increased shopping occasions for retailers who participate.

One retailer taking sustainability seriously is Staples, the world’s largest office products company and a trusted source for office solutions.  While Staples has had a commitment to the environment for many years, Call2Recycle has helped Staples bring its recycling goals to life.

“We began working with Call2Recycle in 2003 to put together a modest in-store take-back program for rechargeable batteries,” said Jake Swenson, director of sustainable products and services for Staples.  “We’ve been able to improve our program together over time, and our experience with Call2Recycle inspired us to start taking back other office electronics. Recently, we’ve worked together to better engage and educate our associates. Once our employees better understand how the program works, we really improve our overall collection numbers.”

Call2Recycle and Staples have collaborated to design and implement an easy customer collection program. Both organizations worked to give Staples’ employees ownership in their efforts by using Call2Recycle’s excellent reporting to identify areas of improvement, developing and launching employee education tools, and updating Staples store policies. Staples also uses social media to help increase customer and associate awareness by linking its Facebook and Twitter accounts to smart graphics and other easy-to-understand information supplied by Call2Recycle.

Call2Recycle supported Staples’ efforts by helping ensure that Staples associates know which batteries to accept, answering questions from employees through a dedicated call center, and reaching out to stores that have low participation rates to improve collection rates.

The Call2Recycle research suggests that Staples is doing many of the right things to help influence more consumers to join them in recycling efforts through simple means like in-store signage. Rechargeable battery collections have increased from 6,797 pounds in 2009 to nearly 20,000 pounds in 2012.

“At Staples, we have a global goal of recycling 40 million pounds of e-waste by 2020,” said Swenson. Today the company is at around 20 million pounds recycled to date, but with increased efforts in building customer awareness, it believes it could dramatically exceed that goal.

Call2Recycle supports its retail environmental goals, and will continue to provide collection services to help get the job done.  With more than 30,000 collection sites in North America and new entities continuing to join the program, collaborative efforts are reaping tangible rewards, and collection and recycling numbers continue to grow.




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