Lowe's recently debuted a three-in-one recycling bin at 1,700 U.S. stores that provides a take-back program for compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), rechargeable batteries/cell phones and plastic bags. It's the latest in a growing list of retailers offering in-store recycling.
All of the accepted products are rarely collected in curbside programs, even though each is a marketable recycling commodity.
- CFLs contain up to 5 milligrams of mercury, which is both valuable for reuse and hazardous to the environment if improperly disposed.
- Rechargeable batteries also contain hazardous yet valuable metals such as cadmium and lithium, while cell phones contain circuit boards featuring the previous metals copper and gold.
- Plastic bags use a different recycling method as plastic bottles and are often used in the manufacturing of lumber.
Lowe's has offered battery recycling since 2004 as part of the Call2Recycle program and recovered 334,000 pounds last year alone. The company also offers haul-away appliance recycling for any new appliance purchases and in-store programs to recycle pallets and shrink wrap.
"Lowe's is always looking for new and better ways to serve our customers and continue to be responsible stewards of the environment," said Michael Chenard, Lowe’s director of environmental affairs. "The recycling centers make it easier for customers to make a difference, and we look forward to continuing to partner with them to promote and support community recycling."
Retailer take-back recycling has grown in popularity over the past few years, and currently eight of the largest 10 retailers (based on number of stores) in the U.S. offer a national, consumer-focused recycling program.
While many of these programs specialize in plastic bags, electronics and rechargeable batteries, there are a few retailers that collect more obscure materials, including:
- Aveda - Aveda began collecting plastic bottle caps in 2009, which can be turned into new bottle caps. Many recycling programs request that caps be removed because they are made from a different resin of plastic than the rest of the bottle.
- Nike - Nike has been collecting athletic shoes since 1990, both through a mail-in program and at Nike Factory Stores. They are used to make new athletic and playground surfaces.
- Origins - Origins has been collecting empty cosmetic containers (regardless of brand) since 2009 to be recycled or burned for energy.
- UPS Store - Most UPS Store locations will take in packing peanuts for reuse, and some will also accept entire blocks of expanded polystyrene.
- Whole Foods - Whole Foods collects both wine corks and plastic #5 in most of its stores, which includes Brita water filters. The #5 plastic is sent to Preserve, where it is then turned into products like razors and toothbrushes.