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Office supplies giant Staples is the only North American retailer to make it to the 2014 Global 100 Sustainability List put out by Corporate Knights, and it is leading in the US and Canada on the mounting problem of electronic waste.
In 2010 the company set a goal for recycling 18m kilograms of e-waste (and 100m toner cartridges) annually by 2020. Four years later Staples is halfway to that goal. A recent “technology trade-in” programme has dual goals of raising consumers’ awareness about Staples’ progress on e-waste and getting consumers who are serial upgraders of phones and other electronics to recycle their old devices when buying new ones.
This doesn’t mean that Staples or North America is by any means winning the e-waste war. Staples definitely has the edge in number of places to drop of e-waste (1,500 store locations) and convenience for consumers – leaving e-waste at stores is free and easy. But Staples’ efforts are outstripped by the 10m tonnes of new electronics entering the stream in the US alone each year.
A UN study published in December 2013 estimated the global e-waste mountain is expected to grow from 48.9m tonnes in 2012 to 65.4m tonnes in 2017. This is the weight equivalent of 11 great pyramids of Giza, the study says.
Jake Swenson, director of sustainable products and services, says Staples is advancing e-waste efforts through partnerships. Already the company has convinced nearly all of its partners in collecting and processing e-waste to certify their operations to the E-Stewards standards, which make sure no e-waste ends up in landfills or developing countries.
Swenson says Staples’ next foray is in understanding and helping reduce suppliers’ carbon emissions.
“Carbon reduction and climate resiliency – those are important elements of our sustainability,” Swenson says. The company recently set a new ambitious goal for its own carbon reduction of 75% from its 2010 baseline.carobon emissions Corporate Knights e-waste North America briefing North America case study North American retail Staples