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How to Reduce Retail Waste

Take These Steps to Become a More Eco-Friendly Retail Store

Retail waste is an issue for every store owner, regardless of what you sell. Reducing retail waste is not only beneficial for the environment, but can also help foster goodwill with customers. Many of today’s shoppers want to buy from stores that reflect their eco-friendly values, and your retail space can easily become the eco-friendly store your shoppers are looking for. Follow the steps below to reduce waste and go green at your store today. 

Start Recycling

Recycling is the obvious first step to reducing retail waste. However, going green is about more than simply hiring a recycling service. There are many other strategies your store can use to recycle more and waste less.

Simple Retail Recycling Ideas

  1. Place recycling bins near the entrance of your store for customers who need to get rid of drink cups or other trash before shopping.
  2. Place recycling bins next to all trash cans, including in employee break rooms and other staff-only areas. 
  3. Locate specialized recyclers for items such as electronics, lightbulbs and batteries that aren’t accepted in standard recycling bins. 
  4. If it makes sense for the type of products you offer, consider partnering with a local charity to donate damaged but still-working merchandise.
  5. Make it a point to offer and promote products made from recycled materials.  
Recycling bins outside a retail store.

Reduce Packaging

Packaging materials make up a large percentage of the retail waste stream. In fact, despite major strides in reduction, packaging still accounts for nearly one-third of all U.S. municipal waste. This makes reducing the amount you use a key factor in creating an eco-friendly retail environment.

Tips for Reducing Packaging Waste

  1. Ask your vendors to minimize packaging as much as possible on your shipments.
  2. Let your vendors know that you’d prefer recycled packaging. 
  3. Ask customers whether they want a bag for their purchases—don’t assume.
  4. Provide a small discount or other incentive for customers who bring reusable bags. 
  5. Consider switching to paper bags in your store, which are easier to recycle than plastic. 
Woman reducing retail waste with a reusable shopping bag.

Conduct a Waste Audit

While packaging waste is an issue for nearly every retailer, other areas of concern will be specific to your store and the particular products you sell. Conducting a retail waste audit will reveal your biggest sources of waste, enabling you to better prioritize your reduction efforts.

How to Conduct a Waste Audit

  1. Designate a team of at least two employees to carry out the audit. 
  2. Create a list of waste categories. Include common categories like paper and cardboard, plastics and food waste, as well as categories specific to your business, such as display materials or banners.
  3. Label trash bags or boxes with each category name.
  4. Before your store’s dumpster is emptied, gather all your trash in one location where the auditors can sort it.
  5. Have the auditors, wearing gloves, sort all trash items into the appropriate category’s container.
  6. Once all trash is sorted, weigh each container.
  7. Use those numbers to identify your biggest sources of waste.

*If it isn’t feasible to ask employees to conduct a waste audit, check whether your recycling company offers this service.

 Bags of trash for conducting a waste audit.

By increasing your store’s recycling rate, minimizing packaging and using a waste audit to further reduce retail waste, you’ll show your increasingly eco-conscious customers that you’re truly committed to going green.

Is your store working to reduce retail waste? Share your strategy in the comments.