Although only about 5.5% of our total, calculated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from waste, teams throughout our business work to implement cost-effective strategies and processes to responsibly manage the waste materials resulting from our business operations. As with energy and operations logistics, we have a diverse group of waste management experts dedicated to monitoring and improving our performance. We have implemented initiatives in our stores, distribution centers and home offices to reduce, reuse and recycle as we strive to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.
On a global level, we encourage collaboration across geographies to share best practices in waste operations, data collection and strategy. In 2016, our global waste management stakeholders collected data to calculate our fourth global waste, greenhouse gas emissions footprint and diversion rate (that is, how much waste is being diverted from landfill).* For the first time, waste GHG emissions data was included in our Scope 3 emissions report disclosed in our 2016 CDP Climate response.
We have worked to improve the completeness and accuracy of our waste data and better understand the business decisions that have impacted our waste volume footprint. When we completed our 2016 research, we found that we recycled or composted approximately 187,000 metric tons of materials globally, a 10% increase over the previous year. Going forward, we hope to use the insights developed through our global waste data collection process to identify opportunities to improve our recycling and waste minimization efforts.
2016 Diversion Rates
In addition to our diversion rates, through our data collection in 2016 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 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.
In 2016, we applied a Lean Six Sigma approach to develop and pilot a program in one of our Marshalls distribution centers to increase our corrugate re-use rate. Our goal was to implement a process to measure and maximize reuse and recycle rates and reduce cost of corrugate purchase. The initial results indicated that we would need to implement physical, personnel and process changes to support the program. While broader adoption is not feasible at this time, we will continue to seek new ways to improve our reuse programs.
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. In 2016, we analyzed the impact of removing plastic bags from our packaging of liquid products during shipping from distribution centers to stores. The solution that we implemented utilizes a more easily recyclable material and corrugated box inserts and resulted in 11 million fewer plastic bags being used across our distribution network. We strive to include environmental impact analytics in the selection process for packaging materials where feasible.
In Canada, we have a Smart Packaging Team that works to reduce packaging on merchandise being shipped into our distribution centers or to choose packaging materials that are easily recycled. This team has worked directly with buyers to seek feedback and support on developing guidelines and processes that will effectively reduce packaging. In 2016, we encouraged buyers to reach out to their vendors and share the SMART Packaging guidelines they helped to create. In Europe, we also work with vendors to reduce excess packaging on product incoming to our processing centers.
Across geographies, we have introduced recycling programs to many stores for 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. In Europe, customers can purchase reusable bags, under our “Bags for Life” program, and a portion of the proceeds goes to one of our charity partners.
We have learned that waste disposal programs work better when they are flexible and can adapt to the many different 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 considering 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. 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.
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 material. 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 in other stores or recycled. As of 2016, we operated 14 ARRC locations in the U.S., up from nine in 2015. These ARRCs service about 45% of our T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores. We recently kicked off a pilot program for Styrofoam (polystyrene) in one of our ARRC locations. As a retailer, we depend on foam and plastic materials to protect our fragile merchandise from being damaged during transportation. In this pilot project, we used machinery that compresses and melts Styrofoam into blocks, which are then sent to recycling centers for reuse. Thanks to this initiative and many others, in 2016 alone, the ARRCs helped divert more than 39,000 metric tons of waste from landfills. We are committed to expanding ARRCs across the nation to support our business.
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. We encourage waste reduction and recyclability through our procurement policy, and have achieved a combined 95% diversion rate in each of the last two years! 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.
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 opportunities to add more stores to the trial and for closed-loop initiatives to support enhanced environmental performance.
Europe also has an Asset Recovery and Recycling Center, located in Northampton, England, which acts as a central destination for storage and distribution of excess hangers, store fixtures, display cases and more.
In many of our offices, we recycle close to 100% of white paper from our waste stream. Some of our offices have additional recycling programs, including the recycling of compostable waste, cans, bottles, batteries, plastic wrap, plastic items and printed materials.
In our global headquarters buildings in Marlborough, MA, as well as our Canadian and European corporate offices, we have removed waste bins from Associates’ workspaces and installed centrally located recycling bins for Associates to use. In these buildings we also 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 to identify 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, introducing high-level concepts of environmental sustainability like 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.