Day in, day out, retailers are faced with the challenge of discarding billions of unwanted and unsaleable goods. Whether they are used, returned, or defective, most products—even those which are seemingly harmless—cannot simply be tossed into the general waste stream due to complex regulations. For instance, everyday personal care products like deodorant, hair sprays, and nail polish are often classified as hazardous waste.
Retailers are required to train staff on how to correctly dispose of items containing hazardous ingredients, as well as post signage to remind them of the different waste streams. The process is lengthy and prone to error.
Case in point: Grocery chain’s manual waste disposal was an expensive gamble.
A popular American supermarket chain was spending over two million dollars on hazardous waste disposal per year. This was the result of an unoptimized back-of-store process and lack of traceability into where discarded goods eventually ended up. Employees were doing their best to manually match products to visuals on posters displayed in the sorting space. This approach was inefficient and at times, inaccurate, despite their best efforts. As a result, the grocer was not only missing out on credits offered to retailers for diverting hazardous waste, but facing fines. It was time to remove the guesswork.
Digital product classification and comprehensive employee training
The supermarket chain turned to SmarterX to digitize this process. With SmarterX, they were able to classify over 11,000 products quickly and accurately by cross referencing just a few ingredients—not even full formulations—with millions of data points, instantly. Our proprietary algorithms made decision making transparent, traceable, and infinitely scalable for the business. Dashboards for reclamation, recycling, hazardous goods, and more made the newfound data easy to visualize and act upon, reducing the burden placed on employees.
A win for people, planet, and profit.
Within the first few months of using SmarterX, nearly half of the chain’s stores were onboarded and had diverted 38% of their collective unsaleable goods from hazardous waste to reclamation. Those stores received credit for diverting these products from waste, saving the chain an initial $413,000. On the heels of this success, the company decided to implement SmarterX across the majority of its locations with over 2,000+ employees being trained to use the platform.
Following the company-wide rollout, the grocer saw higher compliance rates. To keep the momentum going, they started tracking employee engagement with the platform. Having visibility into employee activity allows retailers to spot errors early and identify training needs so the system works better for everyone. Reclaiming significant amounts of unsaleable goods—some stores in excess of 75%—reduced the chain’s environmental impact, supported local communities, and led to over one million dollars in savings, the result of paying fewer fines and earning more credit. That’s a win-win in our book.