With innovative recycling practices always emerging, Shawn Gensch, Target’s senior vice president of marketing, recently sat down with Ian Yolles, Chief Sustainability Officer at Recyclebank, to learn more about the challenges facing the retail industry and ways consumers can learn and do more.
Shawn Gensch: Tell us more about Recyclebank. How did the company start and how does it work?
Ian Yolles: Recyclebank helps create a more sustainable future by rewarding people for taking everyday green actions. Through our digital media platform and numerous partnerships, we incentivize sustainable behavior with points that can be redeemed for discounts and deals at local and national businesses, like Target. On average, Recyclebank’s members earn more than $130 in rewards value each year through our program.
Today, members are rewarded for household energy reduction, choosing smarter transportation, purchasing and recycling certain products, taking eco-challenges, engaging with educational content and pledging to take greener actions. Our mission is to motivate individuals and communities to realize a world in which nothing is wasted — changing how people view their role in creating a sustainable future. We aim to take sustainable actions from niche to mainstream by educating, engaging and empowering as many people as we can, online and offline.
SRG: What problems do retailers face in coordinating large-scale recycling programs?
IY: There are three key challenges. The first is determining whether or not the initiative actually makes sense from an environmental point of view. From a carbon impact perspective, this is really a life cycle analysis question. The second is a consumer engagement question. How do you communicate and engage your guests so they feel good about becoming your partner and are motivated to participate? The third question is an operational one. How do you make the program work in the context of the day-to-day operational reality of your retail environment?
SRG: What resources are available to consumers to help them recycle TVs and other large electronics?
IY: Earth911 is a terrific resource. They specialize in providing consumers with accessible and actionable recycling information across the country. The Earth911 Recycling Directory is the most accurate and comprehensive directory of its kind and contains recycling information for more than 300 materials, including large electronics. People can search and find their nearest recycling options and resources by material type. They also have the toll-free, bilingual 1-800-CLEANUP environmental hotline and a free mobile app called iRecycle.
SRG: Are there some items that are simply more difficult to recycle than others?
IY: Definitely. It all depends on end use and whether there is an existing market for recycled material and the infrastructure to recycle them. Batteries, for example, are not always easy to recycle, although the battery industry has come together to try to both create a market and the necessary infrastructure.
SRG: What are three tips you can give consumers about being more active in recycling?
IY: Connect the dots. First, think about where the things that you buy come from. Second, consider how you can maximize the life of the products you buy. Third, think about what happens to them after they’ve ended their useful life. On this last point, items don’t just magically disappear. What a consumer does with a product when they’re finished with it has a material impact. If it can be recycled, it’s a small act that reduces carbon emissions, preserves natural resources and saves energy. That’s a big bang for one small act.
To learn more about recycling, visit Target.com/HereForGood.