Dispose

Take-back program

A “Take Back Program” is an initiative organized by a manufacturer or retailer, to collect used products or materials from consumers and reintroduce them to the original processing and manufacturing cycle. A company may implement this program in collaboration with end-of-life logistics and material processing firms.

There are multiple benefits for implementing a take back program, including:

  • Stronger customer relationship
  • Lower cost of goods sold due to secondary material supply
  • Alternative supply of critical raw minerals
  • Mitigated risks associated with hazardous materials handling
  • Reduced environmental impacts

These benefits often result in no cost or discounts to consumers when they participate. Companies have estimated the success of their take back programs by measuring the total mass of the materials sold against those collected in a year. Financial metrics can also be attributed to a strategy like this.

Example

PwC's uniform take-back program

Situation

  • PwC has six different suppliers who work at their various locations, including security, hospitality, catering and cleaning.
  • PwC provides uniforms to suppliers working on site, to present a professional image
  • Textile waste is estimated to be around 3,000 items or 1 ton per year
  • Under the old system, individuals determined the fate of corporate uniforms at end-of-life, typically municipal waste systems.
  • The UK reuses only 9% of the 39.2 million items of corporate wear.
  • An estimated 60% of all textiles in the UK currently go to landfill.

Challenges

  • Ensuring PwC logos are removed when disposed of at end-of-life.
  • Engaging multiple suppliers in a program that involves relatively small volumes

Solution

  • PwC identified a specialist textile recycling company which sorts uniforms so they can be retained at their highest value:
    • some will be sold on to second hand markets, some turned into industrial rags and some shredded for use as automotive insulation.
    • Buttons are also removed and sold back into the fashion sector, where they can be used in new manufacturing.
    • All corporate logos are removed and destroyed providing security and brand protection.
    • PwC engaged their suppliers in a take-back program so that old items are returned when new ones are distributed, setting up systems to measure the volume of waste textiles and estimate their end destination.  
    • PwC also provided instructions so supplier staff on how to extend the life of their uniforms through proper care.
    • Program costs only 5-15 pence per person-year, which covers the cost of shipping uniforms to the specialist recycling provider.

Key Benefits

  • Supplier employees were pleased to participate in the program as they felt they were contributing to an environmental solution.
  • Complete certainty of where uniforms are going and that all logos are properly removed, avoiding impersonation of PwC personnel.
  • Energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, by avoiding the need for new clothing or industrial cloths
  • Avoiding uniform disposal to the landfill saves approximately £100 per ton for local authorities.