Brands take recycling and their businesses to the next level

Source: Nespresso
Apr 23, 2018

Going green can be beneficial for businesses and cost-effective for their customers. Retailers and consumer brands can draw inspiration from companies such as Nespresso, Brita and, which have developed innovative recycling programs aimed at making the world — and our environment — a better place.


Nespresso’s capsule recycling program makes it easy for customers to cut down on waste in three easy steps.

First, the customer collects used capsules in a Nespresso-approved recyclable bag. Second, they return the coffee capsules to Nespresso at designated collection points or via UPS with Nespresso’s mail back program. Back at the processing plant, Nespresso’s recycling partner separates the coffee from the aluminum capsules. The aluminum is melted down and recycled into other aluminum products while the coffee grounds are composted into high-quality soil.


Brita products already make for an eco-friendly alternative to plastic water bottles. Believe it or not, one Brita filter can replace 300 standard water bottles.

But when it comes to sustainability, Brita doesn’t stop there. Its recycling partner, TerraCycle, repurposes used filters, pitchers and bottles. Here’s how it works: after customers have collected at least five pounds of used Brita products to recycle, they are instructed to wrap them in a garbage liner or bag and pack into a shipping box. Then they can print out a free shipping label from the Brita website and mail the used goods back to Terracycle. The recycled products are incorporated into outdoor furniture, bike racks and park benches.


Amazon has worked to make it easier for customers to trade in or dispose of unwanted electronics and accessories. If a device still works, customers can send it back to Amazon for a gift card. If the product is broken, customers can work with Amazon’s recycling partner, Re-Tek, to dispose of it.

On Re-Teck’s site, customers choose the device(s) they want to recycle from a drop-down menu. A UPS shipping label is then generated, which the customer can print out and attach to a mailing box. All that’s left is to drop off the package at the nearest UPS location, and Amazon takes it from there.

With something as simple as incorporating recycled packaging into your repertoire or forging recycling partnerships of your own, going green as a business has never been easier — or more important.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Have eco-friendly practices become an operational as well as public relations imperative for retailers and consumer brands? To what extent do you expect practices such as those described in the article to motivate consumers to recycle? What companies have impressed you for eco-friendly initiatives that positively affect top and/or bottom line performance?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Most companies realize that eco-friendly practices benefit their bottom line as well as help drive PR value."
"Consumers may say they care about eco-friendly practices, but I’d wager that most only care to the extent that they want the work done for them."
"Good environmental practices may not be an “imperative” yet — but they certainly aren’t a differentiator any more either."

Join the Discussion!

12 Comments on "Brands take recycling and their businesses to the next level"

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Michael La Kier

Long gone (mostly) are the days of “green washing.” Most companies realize that eco-friendly practices benefit their bottom line as well as help drive PR value. A company can only be as strong as the communities in which it operates. Coca-Cola has done great work in this space with water conservation and recycling initiatives (the latter not only with packaging but also displays using re-usable and recyclable materials).

Max Goldberg

Being environmentally friendly has become important to consumers, and therefore important to retailers. Recycling programs are a great way for retailers and brands to make a statement, while helping the environment. Whether it’s recycling plastic bottles or sneakers, consumers expect retailers and brands to make the world greener.

Art Suriano

Recycling is smart, and everyone should be interested in protecting our planet. Unfortunately, many people do not take it seriously. For retailers concentrating on going green they receive positive press, but only those who share their cause respond favorably, while a more significant number of people don’t care. So if a company wants to go green because they feel it is right for them and their culture then those are the reasons to do it and not because they hope it will help business. As we move forward with technology, we will find newer methods to help protect our planet. We need to look at better ways of recycling the daily garbage picked up every day. We are making tremendous progress through technological developments. So for the short term we should continue to spread the word and motivate and encourage everyone to take better care of our planet. Many people will and, for those that do not, I believe we will someday have technology that will make up for it.

Jennifer McDermott

Consumers may say they care about eco-friendly practices, but I’d wager that most only care to the extent that they want the work done for them. The examples provided above leave very little extra for the customer to do or pay in order to get those feel-good green vibes. An important marketing, operational and ethical inclusion for sure.

Brandon Rael

Retailers have been raising their environmental and social consciousness in recent years, and it’s a very encouraging sign. Recycling, renewal and being more efficient with their manufacturing processes are key areas for retailers not only to help contribute to our planet’s health but to help build and cultivate a trusted relationship with their loyal customers.

The next wave of consumers, Generation Z (my children’s segment) are growing up in a world where they are aware of and are concerned with how things are made, where they are sourced and how we could ultimately recycle or reuse products. This is a call to action to all companies that are in the clothing manufacturing space.

Brands such as Stella McCartney are taking significant steps to help drive this transformation. Their goal is to create a business that is restorative and regenerative by design, striving to incorporate as many circular materials as possible into their collections.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

Brands and retailers disregard environmental impact at their peril, but it is a slippery slope where continuous improvement and the expression of values in this area is essential. Starting points that deliver operating business value make sense. Notice that most fast food chains have switched out printed menu boards for digital menu and promotion panels. This has solved big expense and logistical challenges, while enabling better point of purchase marketing. Fashion retail, while slower to adopt, is experiencing similar benefits.

Ben Ball

Good environmental practices may not be an “imperative” yet — but they certainly aren’t a differentiator any more either. It’s just the ante to be in the game.

Kim Garretson

I would like to see fashion brands and retailers really step up to combat our huge issue of textile waste. Some reports say the average American throws away 70 pounds of used clothing a year. More about this issue here.

Ralph Jacobson

This is a win-win goodwill effort that pays off for most any brand that participates. Will it motivate every shopper? Of course not, but it does touch upon a timely topic. I see this growing as it can save brands expense overall if managed effectively.

Charles Dimov

There is a growing number of retailers starting to pay attention to sustainable practices. Personally, REI and H&M come to mind. In the H&M case, they take back old clothing to recycle it into other things (wash-cloths, fibers for other fabrics …). The customer even gets a $5 discount, per bag brought back to recycle. An area that more retailers need to start thinking about is the Retail Ship:Order (RSO) ratios. Right now, retailers fulfilling online orders from store inventory often make multiple shipments for a single order. The customer is irritated about NOT getting their full order in one box. It costs the retailer the extra shipping fees. And it is adding pollution from the additional diesel trucks dropping off packages, as well as the additional (and sometimes excessive) packaging. It is a challenge we need to start taking more seriously in retail!

Ken Lonyai
Any real “green” initiative is a great one, however, the net effect of the programs above amounts to almost nothing given the scale of the problem. Every minute, a garbage truck’s worth of plastic ends up in the ocean and about 1 million(!) plastic bottles are produced. 91 percent of plastic is not recycled globally. The 2018 Earth Day theme is “End Plastic Pollution.” The time is now to drastically reduce one-time-use plastics, (essentially packaging) and do something real for the planet. Supermarkets, convenience stores, general merchandisers, and anyone involved in the plastic bottle ecosystem can do so, so, so much more than they are now doing, which is effectively supporting the problem. The elimination of plastic shopping and produce bags is viable today and for those brands that really care to do something positive, the solution is only a purchase order away. And in fact, if we’re going to tout Amazon for electronics recycling, let’s join together and demand that they show a real commitment to fighting pollution by immediately replacing the plastic produce… Read more »
Min-Jee Hwang

Retail products can have an impact on the environment and smart brands are doing their part to reduce their own negative impact. If a brand’s target market only shops with companies that align with their values, then it is beneficial for both the environment and the company’s bottom line to engrain sustainability in their business practices.

"Most companies realize that eco-friendly practices benefit their bottom line as well as help drive PR value."
"Consumers may say they care about eco-friendly practices, but I’d wager that most only care to the extent that they want the work done for them."
"Good environmental practices may not be an “imperative” yet — but they certainly aren’t a differentiator any more either."

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