Recycling and Waste Management

Making Good Use of Waste

Making Good Use of Waste
The Nordstrom team at our Fulfillment and Contact Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, processes thousands of customer orders each day. They also generate a lot of waste, which has a big impact on the environment. With that impact in mind, one Nordstrom employee is making sure that every bit of that waste – literally –finds a non-landfill home.

Gregory Martin, Nordstrom Direct facilities operations manager, has coordinated the collection, diversion and disposal of recyclable waste at our Cedar Rapids Fulfillment Center since 1997. He recently determined that although the Fulfillment Center recycles about 98% of its total waste annually (and is one of the leading sites for percentage of waste recycled within Nordstrom), there was still more work to do. Two percent of non-diverted waste, around five tons per month was still going to landfills and a significant component of it was associated with food service operations. Gregory sought to find a solution that would further reduce the diverted waste at our Fulfillment & Contact Center towards a goal of zero.

Getting to Zero

Gregory established a partnership with Green RU, a Des Moines, Iowa-based company that creates customized organics and food scraps recycling programs. They provided the means to collect and compost the facility's organic and food materials into a nutrient–rich, soil-like compound that can be recycled back into the earth as opposed to taking up landfill space. Gregory was able to launch an organic waste composting program – the first of its kind in the Fulfillment & Contact Center.

"Diverting organics from landfills to composting is definitely a better solution."
-Gregory Martin, Nordstrom Direct facilities manager

The program started with staff from Green RU educating and training the Fulfillment Center's food service employees on how to separate "pre-consumer" kitchen food waste that is produced during food preparation (such as food scraps that cannot be used for cooking) from "organics only" waste -- or food that has not been processed. The waste is then collected weekly as part of Green RU's collection service.

"Diverting organics from landfills to composting is a definitely a better solution than what we had previously done," says Gregory. "It allows us to process organic waste in a manner that's better for the environment and we can feel good about that."

Employee Involvement is the Key

Creating a voluntary program for employees was the next step in the process. Designated containers were set up in the Fulfillment Center's employee cafeteria for organic/food waste for composting. In addition, signs were placed throughout the cafeteria explaining the advantages of composting, and posters showed what waste could and could not be composted. GreenRU representatives visited the cafeteria regularly to answer employee's questions and demonstrate proper ways to separate pre- and post-consumer waste.

Involving employees seems to be paying off. Just five months into the program, the total amount of composted waste has increased significantly compared to the amount that was generated prior to the start of the composting program.

A Company-wide Initiative

While the program at the Fulfillment Center is new, other organic composting programs have been in place for quite some time at other Nordstrom Full-line stores, Rack stores and corporate facilities.

"Composting makes a huge impact on our overall waste volume reduction but it's so important to have a leader in place who is passionate enough about it to make it happen," said Linda Peffer, Nordstrom director of Corporate Social Responsibility. "Gregory really stepped up and is working hard to make an impact – we like to say that he's 'leaving it better than he found it'."

Making Good Use of Waste

RU Green representative assists Nordstrom Direct employee in differentiating compostable packaging and serving ware during a "Composting Intervention" event.

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