Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, Americans generate 25% more waste than at any other time of the year – this translates to approximately 1,000 pounds of extra waste per household. As we continue to live in an environmentally conscious community, companies and consumers around the globe are implementing changes to help reduce this annual waste.
This year, companies such as Ombori Grid and H&M are leading the way through their innovative solutions. Let's take a look at why such change is so important and what retailers and consumers can do to help create a more sustainable future.
It's Time to Cut Back!
According to Business Insider, the fashion industry produces 10% of all global carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world's water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics. In addition, 85% of all textiles end up in dumps each year.
Leveraging Smart Recycling
To support companies in their sustainability efforts, Ombori has introduced Smart Recycling technology. This innovative solution, along with a suite of other products, promises to address concerns about waste in the fashion industry while enhancing the customer experience. Adding this technology within a retail location this holiday season can dramatically impact consumers' ability to recycle!
This tool features an interactive screen with a built-in scale that weighs donated items for recycling. Here's how it works. An individual visits a location with a Smart Recycling Bin and places items to be donated into the receptacle. The system weighs the items and displays how much the person has contributed on the screen. The visitor can then interact with the technology to learn more about recycling and other sustainability efforts. When the bin needs emptying, staff are alerted via Web, mobile device, or smartwatch.
H&M was one of the first retailers to implement Smart Recycling Bins in its locations, starting with its flagship store in Manhattan, New York. This technology perfectly complements the retailer's garment collecting initiative, which allows customers to donate unwanted clothing and receive rewards in return. When H&M shoppers add items to the Smart Recycling Bin, they can see how much they've donated as well as the total amount of clothing collected at the store and other locations across the globe.
The benefits of Ombori Smart Recycling go both ways. Customers have a fun and convenient way to donate used garments and textiles while enjoying discounts on future purchases, which increases the likelihood that they will take their unwanted clothing to H&M instead of a landfill. In return, the retailer is rewarded with a loyal customer base that seeks out eco-friendly brands. Smart Recycling bins allow H&M to meet its sustainability targets and demonstrate its commitment to reducing waste in the fashion industry while continuing to sell trendy clothes.
How to Recycle Your Clothes
Currently, Smart Recycling bins are located in numerous H&M stores. They accept clothes, including those that H&M does not sell. Those who want to participate simply need to identify the closest location and bring their items in. Not only will they feel good about their decision, but they may also receive a discount at the store.
Additional Ways to Reduce Holiday Waste this Season
Individual consumers can reduce holiday waste as well. In fact, about 80% of the waste produced from Thanksgiving to New Year's can actually be reused, repurposed, or recycled. Here are some tips for consumers for reducing waste during the upcoming winter holiday.
Cardboard Boxes: Given the increase in shipping during the holiday season, the accumulation of cardboard boxes is inevitable. Fortunately, they can be both reused and recycled. Indeed, cardboard boxes are the most-recycled packaging material, with nearly half of the material used to make new boxes coming from paper recovered for recycling.
When recycling boxes, it is important to remove all packing material before placing them in a recycling bin since much of it is not recyclable (e.g., packing peanuts, bubble wrap, air pillows, and Styrofoam). It is also a good idea to flatten boxes so that they will fit more easily into the recycling bin. In addition to recycling, cardboard boxes can be reused and repurposed for online shopping returns, regifting, storage, or arts and crafts projects. Likewise, packing material can be reused when returning items or sending gifts.
Gift Wrapping: While everyone appreciates a finely decorated holiday gift, much of the material used to wrap presents is non-recyclable and should be reused when possible. Remember, the fancier the bag or paper, the less recyclable it is. "Only simple, glitter-free, non-laminated paper bags and wrapping paper can go in your recycling bin," advises Jeremy Walters, sustainability ambassador for Republic Services, an industry leader in recycling and non-hazardous waste. "All those glitter-ridden bags, cellophane wrapping paper, and shiny bows are not recyclable. Save and reuse these next year."
Instead of going for the fancy gift wrap, shoppers should opt for an environmentally friendly alternative such as brown craft paper, newsprint, old maps, old magazines, or old posters, all of which are recyclable. They should also avoid anything that includes glitter, lamination, a waxy coating, or metallic ink, as well as gift bags with fabric or ribbon handles.
Food and Beverage Containers: In addition to gift-giving, consumers enjoy throwing holiday parties that feature a variety of food and beverages. Unfortunately, entertaining can lead to waste, and food packaging is often a source of recycling confusion.
Remember, every item in a recycling bin must be free of food residue. Therefore, it is important to rinse out eggnog cartons, as well as cans of pumpkin pie filling and cranberry sauce. Pizza delivery boxes are only partially recyclable. They must be cut in half, and the dirty half should be placed in the trash. Plastic bottles and cans are recyclable, but not all glass is. Regardless of the material, the process is the same: rinse and dry before placing it in the recycling bin.
Avoiding "Wishcycling": When it comes to recycling, most people's intentions are honorable; however, the information they receive about what is recyclable is not always reliable and can lead to "wishcycling." Also known as "aspirational recycling," wishcycling happens when people put something into the recycling bin without checking to make sure it is actually recyclable. This commonly occurs after the holidays when recycling centers see an influx of holiday lighting, old toys, electronics, and other items that should be taken to a second-hand store instead.
If people take these items to a recycling center, they will be sorted and sent to a landfill, where they might sit for decades. Articles such as string lights are especially problematic since they can wreak havoc on recycling equipment. People can help by taking still usable toys, electronics, and clothing to thrift stores or charity organizations where they can bring cheer to someone else. If an electronic item no longer works, it is essential to use a designated electronic recycling program for safety reasons.
Promote Change this Holiday Season
During one of the most wasteful times of the year, it is up to both the consumer and retailer to implement the necessary change to promote a healthier and more sustainable future for younger generations. Every step we take makes a difference, and technologies such as Ombori Smart Recycling provide one more resource to help us reduce our ecological footprint.