With stores like Walmart and Target popping up in communities across the nation, millions of Americans are doing their weekly shopping at big box stores. This means that these chains have both the opportunity and the responsibility to model certain community-building traits, including recycling. Today’s big box stores aren’t just a one-stop shopping location, as many are also becoming a one-stop recycling location as well.
Target's recycling bins are prominently displayed at the entrance of each of its stores. Photo courtesy of Target.
Let’s use a recent shopping trip as an example. I was at a local SuperTarget and the checker offered my daughter a sticker. As we were walking out of the store, we passed by a series of recycling bins. My 6-year-old daughter stopped what she was doing and decided that she wanted to put her sticker on at that exact moment so she could recycle the plastic backing. The visibility of this recycling center prompted a child to recycle, perhaps imprinting the importance of recycling into her mind forever. The hope is that the visibility of these recycling stations will help families across the country change their waste habits. Target launched this new recycling initiative in April 2010, as part of the company’s Earth Day 40th anniversary celebration. The recycling centers allow Target customers to recycle aluminum, plastic and glass beverage containers, plastic bags and ink cartridges. Target’s recycling centers also accept certain types of electronics, including cell phones and MP3 players. These electronics can then be stripped of their reusable parts through the process of urban mining and remanufactured into new usable consumer goods. Walmart also has recycling centers at many of its stores, but the company has a different approach to cell phone recycling. Walmart has partnered with United Way to recycled old cell phones while raising money for the nonprofit organization’s many programs. Walmart customers can go online and print out a free shipping label, mail in their unused cell phone, help raise funds for United Way, and keep a cell phone from spending an eternity in a landfill. Costco is also expanding its customer recycling initiatives. Earlier this year, customers at the company’s Carson City, NV, location were greeted with new recycling and composting bins. Costco uses a color-coded bin system: The green bins are for compostable items, the blue bins are for recyclables and the red bin is reserved for trash. Companies like Target, Walmart and Costco have millions of customers pass through their doors each year. With highly visible and convenient recycling centers, that is millions of customers that may make the decision to recycle a product instead of throwing it away.