Donation program aims to reduce packaging waste, increase charitable giving

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

TORONTO – PUDO Inc., The Salvation Army Thrift Store, National Recycling Operations (NRO) and Give Back Box (GBB) are cooperating on an initiative to reduce e-commerce packaging waste and increase the quality and quantity of merchandise donated for re-sale.

PUDO’s newly minted relationship with Give Back Box, is integral to supply chain disruption in Canada. GBB and their national retail partner ALDO Shoes, encourage customers to use the very same boxes used to transport or ship new shoes and boots, to ‘return-ship donate’ gently used footwear and clothing to The Salvation Army Thrift Store quickly, conveniently, and at no cost to them.

The process is simple, through online integration with PUDO technology. A downloadable pre-paid shipping label and instructions are made available to consumers, who then fill their boxes with re-sellable clothing and shoes and drop off their boxes for consolidation and distribution through PUDO to The Salvation Army Thrift Store.

The program has only just begun, but already there seems to be a positive trend in the quality of donated merchandise, inspired perhaps by the element of mindfulness that goes into filling a single relatively small box with donated items.

“The lightning speed and convenience at which consumers can acquire new merchandise, by its very nature encourages quick and easy disposal of ill-fitting and unwanted merchandise and packaging in landfills,” says PUDO CEO Kurtis Arnold.

“In the US, more than four billion pounds of new clothing end up in landfills — a horrific statistic. If we use e-commerce market value comparables to estimate Canadian volume, we land somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 million pounds.”

Landfills are pressured further by tonnes and tonnes of cardboard that aren’t making it to recycling. While retailers and grocers recycle almost all of their cardboard, industry sources indicate that only 40 percent of consumers recycle theirs.

“Given that approximately one billion trees annually service e-commerce packaging in North America, we must find ways to recover and re-route consumer-level e-commerce packaging and ensure that it ends up recycled,” adds Kurtis.

The reasons why new clothing and shoes end up in landfills are myriad, but chief among them is friction in the returns logistics process.  It isn’t always easy for consumers to return clothing and shoes for exchange or refund, and it definitely isn’t easy for retailers to return seasonal goods to the floor in time for full-margin re-sale, so inevitably merchandise often ends up in landfills as a cost of doing business.

Resolving this issue at all levels of the supply chain is complicated, but PUDO, with its national Network of carrier-neutral PUDOpoint parcel pick-up and drop-off counters located near to where people live, work and play, is tackling the problem one step at a time, starting at the consumer level.

The Salvation Army Thrift Store is part of The Salvation Army, one of the largest national charities in Canada that gives hope and support to over 1.6 million people.  Through the 107 Thrift Store locations across Canada, savings are offered on gently used clothing, textiles, and household items while supporting Salvation Army programs, services, and emergency relief efforts.

The program relies upon the good intentions and giving of individuals and families in Canada. “Donations of gently used clothing and household goods are at the heart of what we need and required for what we do to support individuals and communities, and we have been receiving wonderful boxes of donations,” says Tonny Colyn, national donations manager at The Salvation Army Thrift Store.

The Salvation Army Thrift Store is an environmental steward that recycles and redirects for use mass amounts of clothing and textiles, household goods and other items from Canadian landfills. Last fiscal year, it diverted over 82.4 million pounds which included 1.7 million pounds of cardboard packaging.

“Being able to refresh, recycle and restyle donations is a foundational component to what we do in store and with our partners, and we are pleased to be working with PUDO and Give Back Box,” says Colyn. “This relationship and approach to giving, especially over the holiday season where so many people nowadays shop online, has great potential to help so many people that may be in need.”

According to Give Back Box founder Monika Wiela, participants in the return-ship donation program are uncommonly generous and appreciate the opportunity to donate easily and conveniently.

“An unexpected trend has been the donation of new merchandise,” says Wiela. “The knowledge that ill-fitting or unsuitable clothing and shoes will go directly to charity seems to inspire consumers to donate rather than return, even if it means that they will not receive a refund.”

It is early days yet for this innovative four-way program, but the results are hopeful and seem to be disrupting more than one level in the supply chain — good news for the environment, and for community-based charities.