Waste management is a key priority of TJX's environmental sustainability strategy. As with energy and operations logistics, we have a diverse group of waste management experts dedicated to improving our performance. We have implemented initiatives in our stores, distribution centers and home offices to reduce, reuse and recycle so we may continue to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.
One of our key focus areas is collaboration across geographies to understand and share best practices in waste operations, data collection and strategy. In 2015, our global waste management team continued to work together to provide key updates on accomplishments in each region, and we collected data to calculate our third global waste, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions footprint and diversion rate (that is, how much waste is being diverted from landfill).1 We worked to improve the completeness and accuracy of our waste data and better understand the business decisions that have impacted our waste volume footprint. For example, in 2014, with two years of data available, we had estimated that we recycle over 185,000 metric tons of material each year. When we completed our 2015 research, we found that we recycled approximately 169,000 metric tons of materials globally last year, which was lower than our previous estimate. Going forward, with access to increasing years of consistently calculated data, we strive to gain better understanding of our regional waste trends so we may determine where we can increase our efforts to improve the results of our recycling and waste minimization efforts.
Through our data collection, in 2015 we found:
Like many retailers, cardboard and other materials used to package our merchandise for shipping to our stores constitute the most significant volume in our calculated waste stream. Throughout our geographies, we have many initiatives that address reduction, reuse and recycling of many of these materials beginning with suppliers, through to our distribution centers and on to the stores.
We continue to consider ways to improve recycling of certain types of packaging materials received from our vendors and also reduce the amount of packaging needed to move merchandise from our distribution centers to our stores. Specifically, we have analyzed the lifecycle impacts of our internal-packaging and fragile-packing materials in our T.J. Maxx and Marshalls distribution centers as well as using plastic totes versus cardboard boxes in the U.S. We are beginning to include these types of analyses in our conversations internally about the environmental impacts of using different types of materials.
In Canada, we collaborate and communicate with our merchandise suppliers on preferred packaging materials and practices. A sub-committee within Canada’s green team called the smart packaging team has worked to develop vendor guidelines and internal processes to identify opportunities for more appropriate packaging.
Across geographies, we have introduced recycling programs to the majority of stores to recycle common items like cardboard, plastic, paper, aluminum and glass. To reduce the creation of waste, the majority of our store reports, training material and policies are available electronically. For customers, we offer reusable bags for sale in our stores, and in Europe, in particular, as an alternative to single use carrier bags, we offer “Bags for Life.” The donation for each bag is given to support our national charity partners across Europe.
We have learned that waste disposal programs work better when they are flexible and can adapt to the many different, unique store configurations, as well as to the regulatory or legislative requirements in different regions. As our programs mature, we are working to find solutions for the responsible disposal of many different types of materials in our waste stream and are constantly working to pilot new solutions to avoid sending materials to landfills.
Virtually all of our distribution centers include designs to simplify the reuse and recycling of the corrugated cardboard we receive from our vendors. Much of our vendor corrugated cardboard is recycled or reused at these distribution centers. In some cases, the processes and systems required to maximize reuse and removal of corrugated cardboard were integrated into the initial designs for the distribution center. In addition to cardboard, some of our distribution centers have systems in place to recycle other materials, such as scrap metal, pallets, paper, glass, plastic, aluminum and organics.
While many of our recycling programs are in effect across most distribution center locations, our regions also have differing programs to supplement our regular recycling initiatives. In the U.S., we have Asset Recovery and Recycling Centers (ARRC) located within many service centers that serve as a central destination for regional store waste. Select stores send used corrugated cardboard, plastic, excess hangers, store fixtures, display cases, unused boxes and other supplies to their local ARRC, where the items are processed for reuse or recycling.
In 2015, our two distribution centers in Canada were awarded the Recycling Council of Ontario’s 3R Silver Certification for outstanding policies and performance in responsible waste management. The distribution centers achieved a combined 95% diversion rate in 2015! 3RCertified is a points-based certification program that reviews how organizations manage solid waste reduction and diversion operations. Participating organizations achieve certification levels based on established criteria and third-party evaluation. Our Canadian operation also has a smart packaging team that empowers buyers to work with vendors to reduce packaging on merchandise being shipped into our distribution centers or to choose packaging materials that are easily recycled.
In Europe, our processing centers are recycling waste streams that include plastic, wooden pallets and cardboard, and we now backhaul cardboard and plastics from approximately 50 stores in the U.K. to processing centers. We continue to look for closed loop initiatives to support our environmental performance.
In many of our offices, we recycle close to 100% of white paper from our waste stream. Associates can take the initiative to turn off reports that they are no longer using in order to save paper, and we have "reduction in print"" teams, which collaborate with Associates to implement suggestions and technologies to further reduce printing. Some of our offices have additional recycling programs, including the recycling of compostable waste, cans, bottles, batteries, CDs, plastic wrap, plastic items and printed materials.
In our Global Headquarters "west campus", as well as our Canadian and European corporate offices, we have removed waste bins from Associates’ workspaces and installed centrally located tri-sorter bins for Associates to use. Also in our Global Headquarters "west campus" and Canadian corporate offices, we use cups, plates, napkins and utensils that are made from 100% compostable materials, and we have organic waste programs. We monitor the success of these programs with our janitorial and Office Services staff and make adjustments to improve where necessary.
Although our business operations are not water intensive, we believe reducing water usage is consistent with both our low-cost operating philosophy and our commitment to environmental sustainability. To that end, we are continuing our efforts to monitor our water usage and identify opportunities to improve water efficiency in our operations. For instance, our Energy Management group in the U.S. collects water usage data as a means of identifying potential opportunities for improvement. We use time-sensor technologies to control faucets in many of our restrooms, and in the U.K., we monitor our direct water usage and work to reduce consumption at stores with high water usage. In the U.K., we have also benchmarked our consumption against similar retailers and evaluated our average daily usage for stores.
Additionally, our TJX Vendor Code of Conduct strongly encourages our vendors to conserve and protect resources such as water and energy and also take into consideration environmental issues that may impact their local communities. Environmental concerns are incorporated into our vendor social compliance supplier training materials as well. Within these materials, we introduce high-level concepts of environmental sustainability, which include water conservation, as the management of fresh water as a sustainable resource is very important globally. Our training includes specific cost-saving, water-conservation recommendations for our suppliers that they may consider implementing at their production facilities. We plan to continue including similar relevant water facts during future training sessions.