XPO’s Works Towards Sustainability Through Returns Recycling

Richard Cawston President, Supply Chain Logistics – Europe | March 18, 2021

On this World Recycling Day, I wanted to share some insight into how we approach returns recycling at XPO.

Returns recycling is an important area of our business. We care about it and it’s not just a necessary task at the end of the process that has to be done – it’s an integral part of the supply chain that has to be executed well and thoughtfully. It’s encouraging when a return has gone as well as a new product or when recycling has gone above and beyond the industry minimum standards for our customers.

Our recycling process

First, we do what we can to try and prevent waste in the first place by ensuring the correct product gets to the consumer. If there is a return, we try to minimize its impact and reuse the product. And, if that’s not possible, we recycle it in the most sustainable way we can.

I know that returns happen even when there’s no issue with the supply chain. We try to make this as efficient and sustainable as possible by reusing the product, repurposing the packaging and automating the process.

XPO has tailored approaches for returns recycling to best serve our customers

Here are a few examples of how we’re making sustainable returns recycling a focus point in Europe:

  • For nearly 13 years, we have worked with Xerox in the Netherlands to achieve full visibility on all returns. More than 90% of returns are either re-used or recycled. Less than 10% of these returns are incinerated.
  • In France, our Satolas-et-Bonce site has partnered with Envie, an organization that supports getting disadvantaged adults back into work. The teams work together to sort and re-purpose polystyrene packaging. The product has turned 134m3 of polystyrene into reusable plastic, reducing carbon emissions by 54%. This effort was the 2020 winner of the Shared Value Creation prize at the Sustainable Industry Awards organized by l’Usine Nouvelle, a French trade publication.
  • In the UK, one of our sites serving a fashion retailer managed the returns of more than 11 million products in 2020. This can range from expertly ironing, repairing or reboxing a returned item, to recycling it into new fabric. 98% of the returned products are sold again.

Striving to send as little waste as possible to landfill

In our industry, the conversation around environmental sustainability can primarily center on energy use. How we deal with our waste, the waste of our customers’ and returned products is a critical component to this discussion and making sure that we continue to do the right thing. At XPO, we currently recycle 82% of our waste in Europe, and we hope to continue to improve that figure.