CSD: Recycling Program Breeds Customer Loyalty

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Jun 03, 2010
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By Erin Rigik

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.

While
stopping for gas one day, two waste management interns working for the city
of Lexington, KY, pondered how much garbage could be recycled from cars if
locations, such as gas stations, made it more convenient to recycle.

The interns
pitched their idea to Bruce Whittaker, the district manager of Lexington South
for Speedway SuperAmerica LLC (SSA), which has approximately 1,600 stores in
nine states throughout the Midwest. Consequently, a 10-week pilot program began
last spring at three selected SSA locations in Lexington. To start, the chain
coordinated with the city of Lexington’s Department
of Waste, which pulled a random sampling of trash from the three sites and discovered
that, on average, 45 percent of the trash customers discarded at each gas station
could be recycled. The city then provided large recycling containers called
Rosies, which SSA placed alongside the trash bins at the three participating
stores. Over a 10-week period the chain collected a total of 2,200 pounds of
recyclable materials, which included plastic beverage bottles, aluminum cans,
newspapers and magazines (no glass containers).

“The volume of recyclables collected speaks directly to the need
to institute a recycling program in the convenience store industry,” Mr.
Whittaker said.

A year later, the three stores from the pilot program are
recycling more than ever before, filling eight to10 big roll carts per
week with recyclable materials. The success also led SSA to expand its recycling
program to 16 stores in the Lexington market last October.

At a time when more
consumers are interested in sustainability, customer response to the recycling
program has been strong. Customers have written to remark that the bins are
clearly marked and to thank the chain for implementing the program. The program
also speaks to the chain’s core values. “At
Speedway SuperAmerica, one of our most important responsibilities is to protect
our environment,” said SSA President Tony Kenney. “We care about
the footprint we leave on the environment and we hope to make it a little easier
for others to care of as well.”

To develop and maintain a successful
recycling program, it is imperative to have someone working for the city who
holds a real interest in the outcome of the program, Mr. Whittaker indicated.

As
it turns out, Lexington was in the middle of creating a recycling expansion
program of its own and was ready and able to support the chain’s initiative
through canister distribution and pick-up coordination.

“Easily accessible receptacles make the choice to recycle easier
for consumers,” said Mr. Whittaker. “In addition, we’ve had
an incredible amount of support from the city of Lexington, which has revamped
its recycling program after finding that 75 percent of the waste sent to local
landfills could be recycled.”

Discussion Questions: Do you agree based on the Speedway SuperAmerica experience
that there is a need for convenience stores to institute recycling programs?
What’s the likelihood that recycling programs will eventually become common at
c-store locations? What are some hurdles preventing such programs from being
enacted?

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15 Comments on "CSD: Recycling Program Breeds Customer Loyalty"


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Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
10 years 11 months ago

Convenience stores and other often-visited sites need to start leading the drive towards better recycling programs. Any “retail” location that includes parking spaces should do a better job of working with their customers to provide recycling and composting options.

The Atlantic provinces in Canada have a big push to only two receptacles–recycling and compost. There are few options for garbage.

Tim Horton’s recently sealed their old garbage cans, yet left them in place with big signs directing customers to the new recycling stations. It’s a great way to change consumer behaviour rapidly.

C-Stores are challenged with slack labor, independent owners, and frequent 24/7 issues. The large chains could and should lead the change.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 11 months ago
C-stores are involved in many states with recycling of beverage containers (50% of the items classes mentioned in the article) because of the various bottle laws. There are many differences between that “forced” recycling and voluntary recycling as outlined in the article. The first requires labor and the recycled items are stored inside the stores, which can create a host of issues–space, cleanliness, etc. The recycle program mentioned in the article places the recycled materials outside the store and eliminated many of the issues with internal storage. One of the main issues I foresee for c-stores to implement the type of recycling mentioned in the article is space. C-store parking lots are generally small with limited parking. Devoting space for a large recycle bin may not be possible. That being said, there is no questions that much of the “trash” customer leave at c-stores is recyclable items and if sufficient space is available and if the program has the all-important support of the community then it can be a win, win for all concerned. The… Read more »
Anne Howe
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

Consumers who spend the better part of their days in the car would be well-served to find recycling centers at c-store locations. If Speedway or another c-store chain makes recycling centers a part of their mission, corporate culture and even their marketing, I think it could go a long way towards building loyalty as well as expanding the practice of convenient sustainability for the millions of Americans who are on the road all day, every day. Kudos to Speedway for their willingness to get out on the fringes of sustainability!

Kevin Graff
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

Don’t we just do some things because they’re the right thing to do? Yes, offering recycling might inspire some degree of loyalty, but core business ethics make this as an easy decision. Do the right thing and recycle.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
10 years 11 months ago

What a good, important idea! Retail and foodservice locations collect potential recyclable and compostable materials every day. Partnerships like this can provide much better solutions than landfill. The biggest obstacle for residential programs is cost of curbside pick up; in these locations the collection is done. And as discussed, consumers want to and will support these efforts, like separation of different materials, if directions are clear and sites are kept clean. Transforming litter into recyclable potential is a great step forward!

Mel Kleiman
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

Recycling is here to stay. Either retailers are going to get on the bandwagon or be left behind. Customers have always made a decision where to shop based on some perceived values; now those values are starting to increasingly concern the environment.

So here we have a program that is good for the consumer, good for the environment, and good for the retailer.

The new, younger generation will not only expect recycling, they are going to demand it.

Ben Ball
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

Do it for the image.

Do it for the environment.

Do it for the money!

It doesn’t really matter what the motivation is, C-store retailers can take a page out of Walmart’s book with this one, doing something extremely visible that also promotes efficiency and reduces labor cost (parking lot clean up, garbage pickup, etc.)

Do it because it just makes sense.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

It makes sense and is an idea whose time actually should have arrived several years ago. C-stores accumulate a “boatload” of trash, most of it recyclable. Go for it! It is good for the economy, the environment and the retailer. They are becoming good citizens.

Next?

Jonathan Marek
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

Like every other new idea for c-stores, the challenge is the execution. Apart from the few true leaders, on-site execution in the gasoline and convenience business is atrocious. I’m not saying it isn’t worth doing (and certainly in many locales it is or will be mandatory), but it’s another element to manage.

On the other hand, if I’m one of the poor jobbers or dealers flying the BP flag right now, I think I’d put up giant recycling signs, right next to a giant sign that says “this site is owned and operated by a small businessperson, not by BP!”

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

That is why they call them “convenience” stores. This is a natural, with upsides galore.

Paul Hepperla
Guest
Paul Hepperla
10 years 11 months ago
I believe C-stores, just like grocery retail and other locations, will continue to expand their recycling efforts for a number of reasons. First – Brand. Brand is becoming more closely linked with sustainability and conservation efforts and one of the more effective ways to support the brand is through simple programs like recycling. Second – Compliance. More and more, retail locations will be responsible for the trash they produce. For C-stores, that means the transfer of trash from their consumers to the store will have to be met with programs limiting any potential compliance issues, taxes, etc. Recycling programs are a wonderful way to limit undiverted waste and accelerate focus on waste diversion based upon material. Third – Dollar Savings. Finally, and perhaps most important, recycling programs have the ability to reduce waste hauling charges related to general landfill costs as well as specify where specific materials, such as plastics, go as part of the waste stream. More and more, this relates to company choice for waste haulers and partners, like Republic or Waste Management,… Read more »
Sid Raisch
Guest
Sid Raisch
10 years 11 months ago

Hello. This is a mobile society. Trash should be recycled as close as possible to the site where it is generated. Fast food restaurants and C-stores owe us that. It would be the shortest step to reducing litter and the cost (even misdirected prisoner labor) to pick up all the trash that results from purchases in those places. If there were a convenient way for consumers to demand it they would.

Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 11 months ago
In Michigan, the largest recycling centers are the supermarkets handling all beverage containers sold by everyone including c-stores. Because of the bottle laws, Michigan turned supermarkets into garbage centers. Food and refuse are never a good combination whether it be supermarkets or c-stores. It wasn’t a good idea for supermarkets that return on average of over 250% of what they sell. This isn’t a good idea for c-stores either. Communities need real innovation to encourage recycling, however, mixing it with food retailing of any kind isn’t the answer. C-Stores have their challenges as it is. I can’t imagine inflicting an even worse insect, order, and management problem on them that they already have. Supermarkets are stuck with taking their returns as it is. As much as I hate it, I wouldn’t inflict it on another type of business even if the intention was to be more ‘fair’. It has brought no value to food retailing. Expanding it wouldn’t increase that possibility. Innovation yes. More mixing refuse with food of any kind, no.
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 11 months ago

There are pest ordinances in every county in the U.S. (along with stalking laws, but that’s another kind of pest). Pest rules specify the distance from public and food-oriented areas that pest-attractive deposits can occupy. In other words, don’t put stuff around your store that will attract rats and other vermin. Ever seen a can-and-bottle reclamation center up close and personal with a store? Probably not. They’re usually way out in the parking lot somewhere, satisfying county ordinances and requirements. Tough to do inside a C-Store footprint.

I have a better idea: Educate the scavengers. You’ve seen them, and they have specific territories like street vendors in New York. Bring them up to date regarding the stuff they’re passing over, and show them how to get money for it.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

Adding recycling centers in c-stores is a great idea that has natural benefits and serves a community need. It also creates another reason for consumers to select one store over another, which is good business for the sponsor.

The space and logistics needed to support an operation as described in the article are more easily accommodated in a chain with large gas forecourt a la Speedway.

It may be problematic, but I see deployment a challenge in non-gas selling c-stores.

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