Solid Waste & Recycling

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Bring Back the Pack

On March 12, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Home Depot is abandoning its stewardship program for fluorescent bulbs and used paint, citing changes in the enforcement of compliance regulations that convinced senior management these types of...


On March 12, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Home Depot is abandoning its stewardship program for fluorescent bulbs and used paint, citing changes in the enforcement of compliance regulations that convinced senior management these types of programs are best left to third-party experts.

This move stands in stark contrast to a western Canadian company that’s handling not only compact fluorescents, but plastic, Styrofoam and 13 other sundry wastes that plague the average consumer. London Drugs — a “can-do” minded organization — has overcome the obstacles and irritations of take back programs and seen its efforts rewarded by support from customers.

The buying public has repaid the company’s environmental efforts from their pocket books, enabling London Drugs to become a Canadian-owned success story of 76 stores serving 35 major markets and 45 million consumers annually across western Canada.

For perspective, let’s look at London Drugs’ humble beginnings.

In 1945, at the end of WWII, a modest drug store of only 1,000 sq. ft. opened on Main Street in Vancouver with the grand name of London Drugs (London, as in London, England). Not long after launching, London Drugs recognized a game changer when a neighboring camera store closed and wanted to sell its inventory. A mixed retail store was born!

This type of prescient thinking bucked the post-war trend to purchase consumer goods in specific stores designed for each product or service, and paved the way for the fledgling drug store’s future retail exploits.

For a regional entity the recycling numbers are impressive:

• 80 per cent average diversion rate with a goal of 95 per cent by December 2015.

• 68 per cent reduction in garbage bin pickups since 2007.

• 4,000 tonnes of cardboard recycled annually.

• 69,000 lbs. of batteries and cell phones recycled in 2011.

• 1 million lbs. of appliances & e-waste in a two year period.

• 165,106 lbs. of Styrofoam recycled to date since the program launch in 2007.

• 10,700,000 lbs. of recyclable materials collectively diverted in 2011.

The credit for this good news story rests squarely on the shoulders of Clint Mahlman, COO & Senior Vice President of London Drugs, who was named to the 2013 BC Business Influencer Index, joining the ranks of such luminaries as David Suzuki. Clint joined the firm in 1984 as a stock boy (yes, you read that correctly) and, under his environmental leadership, the “What’s the Green Deal” stewardship program was launched, igniting the enthusiasm of employees and customers alike.

Clint credits the dedicated teamwork of all employees, with a special nod to Maury McCausland who spearheads program rollouts at the store level.

Under the banner of “Bring Back the Pack,” London Drug customers can bring back the packaging of whatever they have purchased from the store (with receipt), be it cardboard from cosmetic packaging, Styrofoam from appliances, and all types of hard and soft plastics.

The website greendeal.ca is a well-organized, easy-to-read source of consumer information on every aspect of the company’s stewardship initiatives. The site features clips of real employees and lively videos hosted by a tousled-haired Lorne Craig, green marketing blogger and self-declared Styrofoam slayer. There’s ample information on this site to satisfy any inquisitive consumer, and the straight forward marketing message of making waste easy to handle is music to a consumer’s ear: shop with us, bring back your waste, and we’ll take it and recycle it responsibly.

The newest London Drugs location in Vancouver’s False Creek Village is a stone’s throw from the original store and is outstanding for its 95 per cent diversion rate.

Canadian consumers east of Kenora need to ask, “Do we have this kind of retail thinking in our communities? If the answer is “no” then we need to make our collective voices heard. Stewardship is every citizen’s responsibility, and that includes retail citizens.

Diane Blackburn is Events Manager for the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) and produces the RCO’s annual Waste Minimization Awards. This column regularly profiles finalists and winners from that awards program, and others across Canada. Contact Diane at events@rco.on.ca


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