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Shopping centers offer a great opportunity to promote and practice responsible waste management.  Retail store tenants and visiting shoppers could potentially produce tons of unnecessary waste.

Common Recyclable Materials

The following covers a number of the most common items that create waste within shopping centers.  Possible collection practices are included for each item.

Corrugated Cardboard – Approximately 35 percent of shopping center waste consists of cardboard.  Because this material is kept reasonably clean and is easily separable, cardboard is a valuable material.  Malls often collect and bale cardboard themselves in preparation for pick up.  In addition to easy handling, cardboard provides one of the highest market values compared to other recyclable materials.

Paper – Retail and management offices generate large amounts of paper waste.  The most common, and most valuable, is high grade paper, including copier, computer, and stationary paper.  Other paper products, such as color paper, file folders, and manila envelopes should be stored and recycled separately if possible. Tenants can collect paper using store bins and then empty these into larger consolidation bins somewhere with the shopping center.

Beverage Containers – Vending machines and food courts can potentially produce a large amount of beverage container waste.  Beverage containers consist of glass, plastic, and aluminum, all of which are recyclable.  In addition to strategic placement of recycling receptacles, food court restaurants can help by participating.  Retailers can either collect comingled containers, or have tenants separate each material, depending on the recycling processor and available space.

Plastic Film – Packing materials, product wrap, and plastic bags all add to the waste stream.  Much of this material comes from products that are shipped from warehouse to the retail stores.  Because each type of plastic film may require separate processing, it is important to keep these clean and organized. Some cardboard balers can be used for compacting plastic film, though there are balers made specifically for plastics.  These specialty balers could prevent contamination and create more efficient bales.

Food Waste - Food waste within shopping centers consists of food scraps produced during preparation, leftover food that failed to sale, and postconsumer food waste.  Many shopping centers manage their food waste through donating or composting.  Donations can be sent to shelters, food banks, or farms.  Postconsumer food waste can be composted onsite or picked up by a composting company.

C&D Waste – Renovations within and around shopping centers can create construction and demolition (C&D) waste, such as cement, carpet, drywall, and untreated wood. Responsible management of C&D waste begins with choosing an experienced, knowledgeable contractor who has experience with recycling.  Consider outlining the recycling requirements in the contractor’s agreement.

Fluorescent lamps:  Though the demand for recyclable materials from fluorescent lamps is decreasing, their disposal is regulated by law and must be disposed of properly.  Fluorescent lamps are most valuable when completely intact and recycled in large volumes.  Proper, careful storage are essential.

Wood pallets – Untreated wood from broken or old pallets can be recycled for mulch, animal bedding, boiler fuel, or particleboard materials.  In addition to recycling, shopping centers can lease pallets or choose an alternative, like slip sheets, which create less waste.


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