Whole Foods Uses EasyPak™ to Recycle Fluorescent Bulbs and Batteries
For many companies “going green” is simply a nice gesture that requires minimal investment of time and money. These companies rarely attempt to exceed the bare minimums of environmental regulatory compliance and their employees aren’t trained or encouraged to adopt sustainable measures in their work.
However, Whole Foods Market is showing it’s dissimilarity to the status quo when it comes to going green. For Whole Foods, environmental concern and action are neither marketing gimmicks nor optional programs; they are integral principals in the Whole Foods set of Core Values that every employee commits to and takes part in when they work at the company. “We care for the environment as living up to our primary mission of providing customers with quality organic food; they go hand in hand,” says Whole Foods Store Cluster Green Mission Specialist Erin Kerr. According to Kerr, Whole Foods has recently reached multiple green milestones like reducing the amount of waste that stores send to landfills by 80% in 2008 and cutting energy usage in stores by 5% by training employees to use lighting and powered equipment more responsibly. Charting progress is also important for the company: Kerr says that successful green programs at Whole Foods are ones where improvement can be quantified and explained to customers, shareholders, and other employees.
One new green area that Whole Foods has sought improvement in is universal waste disposal. Universal waste includes items like fluorescent bulbs and batteries, and they usually contain hazardous components that can cause significant problems for the environment if disposed of in the trash with traditional waste. For example, every fluorescent bulb contains vapor of the hazardous element mercury which, if released through landfill disposal, can leak into the water table and harm fish and other wildlife. Because there are hundred of fluorescent bulbs lighting each Whole Foods location, trash disposal of these mercury-containing fixtures can pose a significant environmental threat, as well as a violation of many state EPA regulations. However, because recycling solutions for fluorescent bulbs and other universal waste are often costly and time-consuming, Whole Foods saw that they needed to find cost-effective way to solve this environmental problem.
Whole Foods found their cost-effective universal waste solution in a partnership with Air Cycle Corporation. Air Cycle is the home of EasyPak recycling containers that users fill up with universal waste and send in for recycling via prepaid FedEx. With EasyPak, Whole Foods stores now have an easy way to properly dispose of their fluorescent bulbs and batteries; employees simply fill up the containers whenever a bulb burns out or a battery dies, and when the container is full all they have to do is call a number on the side of the box for standard FedEx pickup. Because the containers can be filled up by any employee at each store’s pace, there are no large waste pickups to prepare for or schedule and no special waste handling training needed for employees. EasyPak containers meet all EPA and UN regulations for universal waste disposal, and every time a store sends a full container back they receive a certificate of recycling and another new container automatically.
Air Cycle also simplified the ordering of recycling products and services by creating an online portal that individual stores can access to receive the recycling solutions that meet their specific needs. The online portal is also the place where stores can see their certificates of recycling and track how much waste they have recycled over time via recycling reports. Reports break down waste recycled by date and waste type, and are easily printed or emailed through the portal. “We are very excited about the ability to track our recycling data,” says Erin Kerr. “We are all about metrics, reporting, and better understanding the results of our green efforts.”
By partnering with Air Cycle and utilizing EasyPak and their online recycling portal, Whole Foods Market is showing that it is takes its commitment to the environment seriously. Hopefully other companies can emulate the concern and action that Whole Foods is showing and look for their own innovative ways to meet their own environmental challenges.
Air Cycle Corporate Recycling Programs
Air Cycle provides corporate recycling programs to real estate services firms like CBRE, global hoteliers such as Marriott, and retailers like Whole Foods Market.
An Air Cycle corporate program can save money on recycling costs and enable easy tracking of recycling efforts. To learn more, view Air Cycle corporate solutions or download a corporate recycling whitepaper.