How In-Store Recycling Collections Can Benefit Retail

Environmentalism and sustainability are now essential aspects of brand building, and in an increasingly competitive marketplace, effectively engaging consumers poses many challenges. For starters, the expanded retail landscape has altered the way consumers interact with products and services. E-commerce sites, dynamic mobile apps, and text message ordering systems afford infinite possibilities for communicating sustainable initiatives and marketing; standing out from direct competitors and defining oneself as a leader in the category requires an extra level of value strategy.

Getting back to basics may help businesses and major brands better communicate their dedication to the circular economy, engaging the consumer through an invitation to participate. Through our partnerships at TerraCycle, we've seen several consumer product brands and businesses experience success with in-store recycling collections. Recycling is already one of the most accessible and easily understood aspects of environmental stewardship for the average consumer. Activating a promotion around recycling using a brick-and-mortar retail program, a time-tested mode of marketing, can offer benefit to sustainable brands on many fronts, and to lasting effect.

Drives Foot Traffic

One of the invaluable positives to an in-store recycling promotion is the foot traffic it generates. Though marketing experts like to attribute the burgeoning trend of e-commerce to millennial shopping behavior, the reality is that all generations of consumers find themselves taken with the convenience of shopping online. But brick-and-mortar retailers offer customers what online shopping can't: the opportunity to physically touch, feel and experience products for themselves.

The advantage created by making recycling the reason a customer enters a brick-and-mortar retail store is a two-fold: number one, you get them in the store and, number two, they have something to feel good about before they even buy anything. For example, just in time for Back-to-School 2016, TerraCycle activated the Binder Recycling Program with workplace supply leader Office Depot. Consumers are incentivized with $2 off of the purchase of any new binder and the opportunity to divert their old and used binders from the trash by dropping them off for recycling.

Creating in-store foot traffic around an empowering behavior like recycling inspires goodwill and positive feelings in the same environment where purchases occur, maximizing profit potential for each retail transaction.

Builds Brand Loyalty

We know that consumers are now more willing to pay more for sustainable products and services than ever before. But while cost, performance and credibility remain prohibitive factors standing between consumers and "doing the right thing," creating and strengthening brand loyalty for these eco-conscious companies is essential for driving sales against well-established competitors. This is especially true for smaller, specialty brands like Earthborn Holistic, a premium pet food brand available in select stores. Presented for purchase alongside well-known dog food brands like Purina or Iams, Earthborn Holistic is faced with the tall order of offering the consumer a promise of value exceeding that of other pet foods.

Earthborn has chosen to provide customer-facing recycling boxes for its product packaging to communicate its commitment to sustainability to both retailers and customers. Retailers can promote themselves as a collection point for Earthborn packaging, and shipments of empty Earthborn bags sent to TerraCycle for processing earn them points which can be exchanged for cash donations to the local pet charity of their choice, or to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

This type of sustainable marketing rewards the consumer by giving them the opportunity to invest in a charitable cause. Emotional and social value benefits are prevalent here, as the activation plays to emotional sensibilities and allows the consumer to make a social statement by favoring a brand dedicated to causes like recycling and the humane treatment of animals.


In-store recycling collections are a visual, tactile way to engage customers with the product you are trying to sell. Consumers are driven to purchase by a variety of factors, and it's up to manufacturers and brands to figure out what those are, and market accordingly.