Waste Management and Recycling
The waste we generate is one of our Company’s most material impacts, and we work hard to manage and reduce our waste footprint.
We have waste diversion programs in our Stores, Distribution Centers, and Corporate and Buying Offices, and we encourage our Associates to participate in practices that increase our recycling, reduce waste, and decrease our use of natural resources.
Waste Diversion from Landfill
We measure the percentage of our waste that we divert from landfill across our retail operations. This measurement includes all Stores and Ross-controlled Distribution Centers and warehouses. In 2020 our estimated landfill diversion was approximately 67 percent.*
*This figure is approximate. We expect the accuracy of our waste measurements to improve over time.
Minimizing Waste in Stores
Approximately two-thirds of our operational waste is generated in our Stores, and a significant portion of that is cardboard.
Because they represent such a large percentage of our waste footprint, cardboard boxes are an important part of our effort to reduce our waste and demonstrate our commitment to being a responsible retailer.
A majority of our Stores participate in a cardboard recycling program in which used boxes are backhauled to a regional facility, baled, and delivered to a recycling partner. This effort to recycle quickly adds up. Across participating Stores in 2020, we recycled more than 30,000 tons of cardboard through the backhaul recycling program.
In addition, we work with our local waste and recycling partners and landlords to make cardboard recycling receptacles available whenever possible in locations where we are unable to backhaul.
Other recycling and waste reduction programs in our Stores:
- Reusable bags: We sell branded reusable shopping bags at our Stores and encourage Customers to use reusable bags.
- Shopping bags with recycled content: All the plastic and paper shopping bags that we provide to Customers contain recycled material.
- Carrying strips: Instead of using large bags for oversized items, we offer adhesive carrying strips that allow our Customers to handle their purchases while using a fraction of the plastic.
- Reusable hangers: When possible we avoid single-use hangers and have a reuse program for Store hangers.
- Dumpster reset: When our Stores temporarily closed, we took advantage of the business interruption to reset the number of trash dumpsters and enhance collection schedules upon reopening, which helped Stores optimize their recycling rates.
- Digital resources: To reduce paper waste, many of our reports, training, policies, and other resources are available digitally.
- Other diversion programs: In certain geographies, we have pursued other diversion efforts, such as organic waste programs and single-stream recycling.
Minimizing Waste in Distribution Centers
Our Distribution Centers receive merchandise from many countries. We process and ship these goods to Stores across the country, typically in cardboard boxes.
We use a packing and shipping system that minimizes the number of boxes and trucks required to deliver merchandise, as well as a system to recycle the millions of boxes we receive each year. As a result, we recycled nearly 50,000 tons of material generated in our Distribution Centers in 2020.
We continuously look for ways to optimize how products are packaged for shipping, which includes working upstream with our suppliers and within our facilities to minimize unnecessary packaging materials. One such project removed inserts from boxes we ship to our Stores. This not only eliminated a source of waste from the insert itself but also allowed us to fit more products into each box and therefore use fewer boxes. This project is estimated to have eliminated more than 1,000 tons of cardboard waste in 2020.
We also test new recycling systems at our Distribution Centers and Stores, including ongoing efforts to recycle plastic film. In 2020 we recycled six times more plastic in our Distribution Centers than we did in 2019. We also recycle our wooden pallets.
These efforts divert tons of waste from landfill. As an added benefit, they also help us reduce waste disposal costs.
In addition, efforts in 2020 to donate non-sellable merchandise, hand sanitizer, and personal protective equipment to local nonprofits helped us divert waste from landfill while supporting local communities.
Minimizing Waste in Offices
The small changes in how we operate our offices also have a positive impact on the planet.
Examples of the initiatives that we had in place in 2020:
- Like many companies, our office teams transitioned to working from home for the majority of 2020. During this period, internal reporting processes were adapted to use digital tools instead of paper. One such change will eliminate more than 100 tons of paper use annually, and we plan to continue using the new process moving forward.
- When we do print, we minimize the environmental impact by using paper that has postconsumer content; setting printers to print double-sided; and using large-capacity, refurbished toner cartridges that result in less plastic, steel, aluminum, and rubber waste compared to traditional toners. We also have a program to recycle office paper.
- At our Corporate Office, 100 percent of Company-provided flatware and utensils are reusable or compostable, and we encourage the use of reusable plates as well. We also supply deskside recycling bins and provide convenient organic waste and single-stream recycling receptacles in common areas.
- The majority of our Associates receive electronic paychecks, which reduces paper use.
- Hydration stations are available to reduce single-use plastic bottle waste.
- An e-waste recycling program handles damaged or obsolete electronic equipment.