In August, Walmart became the latest retailer to commit to a “zero waste” goal by 2025. The big box retailer must achieve a least 90% diversion from landfills and incinerators, according to the Zero Waste International Alliance, primarily through recycling and donation of unused items throughout their supply chain.

Similarly, Target aims to divert 70% of retail waste from landfills through reuse or recycling. And Subaru recently became the first automotive company to have a zero landfill assembly plant.1

What’s behind this race to zero waste? And what steps can retailers take to reach these goals?

Most zero waste goals are focused on recycling programs, such as ensuring that cardboard and other packaging materials are recycled, or reuse programs like composting food waste. But let’s look at one piece of the retail market that is often overlooked — returns. We estimate that 5 billion pounds of retail waste end up in landfills each year from returns alone. And consumers are increasingly unimpressed. Further evidence can be seen in states like California, where there have been multi million dollar lawsuits against retailers for mismanagement of returned consumer products that should be managed according to state and federal hazardous waste laws. A study by Sustainable brands reports that 86% of US consumers expect companies to act on social and environmental issues.2

With some of the world’s biggest companies publicly pledging to reduce their environmental impact, more retailers are sure to follow in order to compete. And with return rates creeping up to 30%, the reverse supply chain is sure to be a focus.

What actions can you take to mitigate your own environmental impact?

By investing in technology to manage your reverse logistics process, you’ll be able to track and trace every product that enters the reverse supply chain and make data-driven decisions on where to route inventory (whether it is to resale, donation or recycling). We typically see retailers reducing landfill waste by over 40% by using a returns optimization technology.

To learn more about Optoro’s solution and how to reduce waste in your reverse supply chain, visit our solutions page or contact for your free baseline assessment.