Solid Waste & Recycling


That Was Easy!

Pop Quiz! What equals the weight of nine African elephants (the genus with the bigger ears)?

Pop Quiz! What equals the weight of nine African elephants (the genus with the bigger ears)?

If you guessed 50,000 kg of spent batteries, you would be correct. This fun factoid comes to us courtesy of Argyle Communications, who provided some interesting comparative statistics to illustrate the achievements of their client, Staples Canada, our country’s largest online retailer of everything office related … the “That Was Easy’ people.” 

Staples is very proud of its 2012 sustainability achievements and are building those out in 2013, to the point that they have already won this year’s “Innovation in Sustainability Award” in the Waste Management Recycling and Reuse category, as defined by the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association. (Last year the company was a winner at the Recycling Council of Ontario’s 2012 waste minimization awards, achieving recognition in the Communications category.)

Staples’ goal is to make it easy for customers to recycle, thereby exerting a positive impact on the environment. In 2011 the retailer launched an initiative to relentlessly drive awareness, engagement and education to all associates at their 300 retail locations, so that the customer facing front lines (and all business units) could make a difference and take pride in knowing that they had done so.

Creating a culture of sustainability is no small task; a robust communications platform was developed that started with a program brand and support strategy. “Easy on the Plant” creative elements were teamed up with the tag line “It’s easy to make a difference.”

Internal Elements for retail and corporate locations across all provinces were developed and rolled out. These included: diversion trackers by program and store; educational newsletters; energy targets and tracking mechanisms; flyer inserts and bin tags; glossaries of energy terms; pilot program to offer recycling to delivery clients; recycling signage at corporate headquarters (e-cycle drop offs, coffee stations and cafeteria).

An Eco Enthusiasts Associate Committee was created across Canada to drive rollout of any new programs or services. Other eco-passionate employees formed working groups for each of the sustainability pillars reporting in to a steering committee that refines and expands the programs. The committee has since grown to include the Regina Call Centre, Mississauga Distribution Centre, and Staples Advantage as well as repre-sentation from Staples US.

Launched in 2011, the Big Eco Education Tour/Grand Tournee Ecoeducative was a collaborative effort between CFER/Recyc-Quebec/GEEP and Staples’ Quebec stores. Each location had a tour date in which students from a CFER would set up a kiosk in store to educate customers on the process and importance of e-cycling. Customers who brought in an electronic item for recycling were given a coupon. The program was promoted in the Staples flyer, on the website and on store signage and proved so successful that it was run again in 2012.

Recycle for Education and Computer Lab Contest (in collaboration with Earth Day Canada) rewarded 10 schools across Canada with a new computer lab valued at $25,000. Ink bins were provided for school collection of toner cartridges.

The final stats in Staples key recycling endeavours were solid: battery recycling at 50,000 kg (versus a target of 15,000 kg); electronics at 3,000 tonnes; ink at 2.5 million cartridges collected; and, energy savings (123 Stores re-lamped to 25w bulbs, reducing electrical consumption by 11.08 per cent).

Turning its attention inward to nurture employee transformation has resulted in the emergence of a focused retail giant intent on getting the sustainability message across to every client that crosses their threshold. Environmentalism definitely starts at home.

And a final fun factoid on the 3,000 metric tonnes of electronics … it represents the combined weight of seven and a half Boeing 747 jets (not including the overweight baggage).

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

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