In partnership with our vendors and employees, we increased our recycling and reuse rates in 2012 by expanding our programs and improving collection processes. Lowe’s implemented a return program in which participating stores ship wood pallets,cardboard, plastic and other material to their respective distribution centers for consolidation, reuse and recycling.
Our stores and distribution centers recycled more than 400,000 tons of cardboard and pallets in 2012, the equivalent weight of 10 aircraft carriers. We also increased the amount of plastic we recycled by 35 percent as we improved store participation. In addition, Lowe’s reduced the solid-waste stream by recycling more metals. We recycled an estimated 104,000 tons of appliances and scrap metal. With the purchase of a new appliance, Lowe’s will haul away customers’ old appliances for free.
We remain focused on promoting community recycling and making it easier for customers. After expanding our Garden Center plastic recycling program to all stores in the continental United States, we launched the program at our stores in Canada in spring 2012. Consumers can drop off plastic plant trays, pots and tags on Garden Center recycling carts regardless of where the nursery items were purchased. Lowe’s stores recycled an estimated 3,900 tons of plastic through the program in 2012, bringing our total collection to nearly 7,400 tons in two years.
Our recycling numbers also have grown as we’ve raised awareness around our in-store recycling centers, permanent collection sites near the entrance of U.S. stores. The centers offer a free and easy way for customers to recycle compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), cell phones and plastic shopping bags. Last year alone, we recycled more than 22 tons of CFLs.
As the use of rechargeable batteries and cell phones grows, we continue to help raise recycling rates. Each year, Lowe’s has increased the volume of rechargeable batteries we’ve collected from customers. Last year, we grew our collections at U.S. stores by 12 percent and 79 percent in Canada. Since the program’s inception in 2004, Lowe’s has diverted more than 1,250 tons of batteries from landfills. That’s equivalent to keeping the weight of 250 school buses out of local landfills.
In addition to local recycling programs we participate in with our nonprofit partners Keep America Beautiful and Habitat for Humanity, Lowe’s teams with tool and equipment manufacturers and organizations such as Call2Recycle® to host recycling events at our stores. We also partner with Earth 911 to host a recycling locator at Lowes.com/Recycle to direct consumers to the nearest recycling center for items such as paint, thinners, fertilizer and pesticides that can be difficult to recycle.
We’ll continue to leverage our partnerships and explore new opportunities to help meet the recycling needs of consumers – online, in stores and across the communities we serve.