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What Your Retail Employees Need to Know About Waste

February 12, 2014

Your best efforts for retail waste management may be all for naught if your employees aren’t on board with your plan. Improper disposal techniques and reduced recycling efforts could easily result in negligent fines for your business and increased health and safety risks for your workers.

It’s important to maximize training efforts, because what you may perceive as a lack employee compliance to policies and procedures could actually be the product of missed opportunities for communication and learning.

What’s in Store?

The type of retail operation you run will determine a majority of the waste you generate. Packaging waste is typically high on the list as vendors ship in boxes, in crates, and on pallets, often with shrink wrap and packaging tape. Employees may toss all of this waste into a landfill-destined dumpster, or all into a single-stream recycling bin. Either choice could be correct, but proper direction should be provided by management in case materials need to be separated. Further direction is needed for packaging materials that came in contact with hazardous materials, as they may now need to be handled as such.

Other trash generated in retail location can come from expired or damaged stock. Employees need to be instructed on how all products in the store should be handled in the event that disposal is needed. This especially applies to beauty supplies, batteries, light bulbs, household cleaners, pesticides, paints, and hand sanitizers. Employees may not realize they’re doing something wrong by tossing such items in the trash. After all, in a residential setting, it’s OK to toss a bottle of drain cleaner in the trash. In a retail setting, the same material must be disposed of following proper hazardous material regulations.

Not in Stock

Disposal for items not sold on the shelves or racks, but are still present in the store, needs to be part of an employee’s training. For example, if your retail location offers photo processing, the chemical used for film development is likely a hazardous material and needs to be handled as so. Cleaning products used to keep the store in presentable to customers is no different, as is true with items used in pharmacies. Again, employees are used to tossing these items in the trash at home, so don’t let the same habit put your retail business at risk.

Process Makes Perfect

What to toss and where to toss it, is a mainstay of your waste management process, but it’s not the end all. In June 2013, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., was hit with $81.6 million in criminal charges for mismanagement of hazardous materials. Allegations included tossing in dumpsters and emptying down drains customer-returned bleach and pesticides past their expiration date. An additional violation was cited as “failure to prepare a hazardous waste manifest,” which is formed used in the tracking and disposal of hazardous materials. While this could be the result of employee negligence, the frequency of occurrence also points to improper code of conduct in place and lack of training.

Train Early. Train Often.

To keep your retail business at safe distance from risks related to waste management, develop a training program that incorporates the following:

  • explanation of hazardous and nonhazardous materials, as well as a mixture of the two
  • how to handle returned, damaged, or expired products
  • how residential trash practices differs from retail business trash practices
  • how to collect, store, and ship waste, including necessary paperwork procedures
  • proper record-keeping practices
  • who to go to with waste management questions

Contact Hazardous Waste Experts at 800-936-2311 for best practices regarding your retail waste management program.

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.