4 Ways to Start Reducing Your Retail Waste
Retail is an incredibly profit-driven industry – and while there are many methods to improve your success, one of the most reliable involves eliminating unnecessary costs. Waste is one such cost center that shouldn’t be ignored. As with all direct costs, any savings generated by reducing the volume of waste goes directly to your bottom line.
Most retail firms have waste and recycling programs that have been in place for some time, but significant cost saving opportunities still exist by first identifying where waste is occurring and then designing it out of the process entirely.
Some of the greatest benefits from this revised approach are:
- Reduced environmental impact and disposal fees
- Improved regulatory compliance
- Increased profits
- Stronger corporate image
With companies being measured more and more on their environmental performance as well as their financial capabilities, and with stricter requirements coming due to ESG, it’s more important than ever to make sure that your waste management operations are as sustainable as they can possibly be.
In this article, we look at the four steps you can take to reduce the volume of waste your organization generates.
1. Request a Retail Waste Audit
Your waste management provider should be able to offer you a complete waste audit service. As part of this service, they will determine your biggest areas of waste and therefore where the greatest room is for improvement. Audits will highlight material streams that are currently being sent to waste, but which could be reused or recycled, as well as showing your baseline tonnages of waste and recycling.
This data is vital to help you build a waste reduction plan, since you will be able to use it as a baseline to compare improvements against.
2. Reduce Packaging Waste
Identifying and eliminating unnecessary bulky packaging is one of the easiest ways to cut down on waste.
Complete an audit of your inventory to identify the areas in which you can reduce packaging. Eliminating just one or two small pieces of packaging can multiply into significant volumes of waste reduction when you sell hundreds or thousands of that unit.
Complete a vendor appraisal exercise to see which vendors are supplying goods in unnecessary packaging. Review the results of this with them, as most suppliers will be keen to make changes in order to secure ongoing business, while reducing their own costs of packaging.
Within your own store processes, you can also make it standard procedure to:
- Identify surplus plastic, cardboard, or paper that can be recycled
- Avoid use of additional or oversized bags
- Avoid wrapping items in more than one layer
3. Make Your Customers Part of the Solution
In the apparel retail sector, many chains have implemented clothing reuse programs to encourage their customers to bring their used clothes back to the store.
In some cases, the clothing fabric can be sent back to manufacturers to be reintegrated into the production of other garments, while lower value materials can be sent for recycling.
This practice reduces waste that would otherwise not have directly impacted your waste disposal cost center, since the duty of care has effectively passed onto the consumer. However, the brand perception benefits can be significant and many ESG reporting frameworks now expect organizations to consider the effects of the goods that they sell, and how their end-of-life treatment impacts society and the environment.
4. Integrate Waste Reduction Methodologies into Staff Training Programs
It really pays to involve your staff in the waste minimization efforts that are coming through from corporate. The best way to ensure that this happens is to include short waste handling modules into employee onboarding and develop ongoing training programs.
Include a basic summary of your organization’s waste policy and procedures, and provide practical guidance, in the form of standard operating procedures (SOP’s), on topics such as:
- How to handle packaging to avoid contamination and allow for optimal reuse and recycling
- How to reduce waste volume by flattening cardboard and plastic sheeting
- Safe usage of compactors and baling machinery (where sites have these)
- Identification of materials for reuse or recycling
- Procedures for presenting waste reduction ideas (e.g. packaging change) ideas to management
NWA Builds Waste Reduction Into Your Operations
National Waste Associates (NWA) has years of experience providing practical, low-cost waste management solutions to the retail industry. We apply this experience to provide your business with best practice guidance that we have seen generate proven savings in the real world.
Our expert team looks at your operations holistically, and provides solutions that are tailored right down to the individual location. This diligent approach provides the greatest savings in the fastest time, prioritizing the areas of the business that are costing you the most.
At the same time, we’ll also recommend how to streamline your waste operations so you’ll have the lowest carbon footprint, and help ensure the maximum value is extracted from all resources consumed, saving you both time and money.
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