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Cintas Toronto Distribution Centre

A comprehensive, employee-led strategy leads to one of Canada’s first TRUE certifications

Location: Mississauga, Ontario
Certification level: Gold
Overall diversion achieved: 94.63 per cent 2018-2019
Certification date: October 2017

When Richard (“Doc”) and Amelia Farmer founded business supplies provider Cintas in 1929, the Great Depression was just beginning, and they were out of work. Doc Farmer came up with a plan to collect, launder and reuse soiled shop rags from local factories, a simple green idea that started a rich heritage of environmentally sustainable practices continuing nearly a century later.

The Cintas Toronto Distribution Centre (DC) became Canada’s second TRUE certification in October 2017. Located in Mississauga, the 60,000 sq. ft. Mississauga facility achieved its zero-waste goals through innovative vendor partnerships, the dedication of its Green Team, and complete engagement among its 50 employees, or “partners” as they are referred to within Cintas. A combination of improvements to overall processes and individual partner actions contributed to the DC’s success as an example of how a zero-waste strategy can be implemented in any type of organization.

The result of this work was a TRUE Gold certification, which acknowledged the DC’s work in diverting 93.59 per cent of waste from landfill. At the time, it was one of five Cintas facilities to achieve TRUE Gold certification in North America. Today, data from its recertification submission shows they’ve continued to improve, reaching almost 95 per cent diversion during a period of significant growth.

A commitment to sustainability

Environmental stewardship is a priority at Cintas, which has integrated sustainable solutions throughout its operations. This includes the use of recycled plastic water bottles to create suits that customers can find for purchase within the Cintas catalogue, modernizing facilities to incorporate environmentally friendly practices, and forming a team to provide a centralized sustainability strategy.

Cintas’ Zero Waste to Landfill initiative includes the following steps:

  • Assessing the internal waste produced to better understand the amount, nature and composition of the waste generated.

  • Assembling teams and champions dedicated to the program.

  • Engaging employees and making it easy for them to get involved with efforts and in identifying ways to reduce, recycle, reuse or repurpose waste.

  • Developing a plan to provide direction and help the organization achieve its goals.

These actions laid the foundation for Cintas Toronto DC’s zero-waste strategy and decision to pursue TRUE certification, by providing the facility a workable plan to address its specific challenges.

Overcoming challenges: Waste diversion

Cintas Toronto DC distributes five kinds of business supplies: entrance floor mats with logos; restroom supplies such as hand soap and toilet paper dispensers; first aid and safety items; corporate apparel direct sales; and uniform rentals to commercial and industrial customers.

With the DC handling such diverse products and services, a key concern was streamlining where the different types of waste generated by the business lines and partners during the normal workday should go.

The facility worked with its waste and recycling service provider, Waste Connections, to analyze its waste and provide recommendations to increase recycling rates. Cintas Toronto DC also privately contracted Waste Connections to recycle its plastic and cardboard, receiving credit in return and thus generating additional cost savings.

It took a lot of work, dedication and commitment, and we were surprised to know the amount of stuff we could recycle rather than putting in landfill. But even doing small things like bringing in our own utensils can make a big difference.

Aftab Shamsudeen, Production Manager & Cintas Toronto DC Green Team member

Overcoming challenges: Getting partner buy-in

Resistance to change in existing practices can often be a barrier in implementing new standards. Education about Cintas’ Zero Waste program was a key tool in tackling this issue, with the DC’s Green Team providing opportunities for staff to learn.

During the first week, the team held a weekly show-and-tell to help educate staff, and now works with departmental waste champions to identify issues around incorrect waste sorting, to gather data, and to weigh collected garbage.

Cintas partners were empowered to bring their own waste reduction ideas to the table, which led to some great solutions. One partner recommended repurposing the filler paper included with garments and other packages to stuff other boxes being shipped out, a move that has also resulted in cost savings.

In addition, the facility’s Green Team devised opportunities for partners to incorporate zero waste strategies into life outside of the workplace, including annual events at the DC to bring in old electronics for recycling and personal papers for shredding.

A Overcoming challenges: Finding new ways to reuse and further reduce waste

Along with the idea to reuse shipping paper, Cintas Toronto DC made other changes to its processes as part of its efforts to decrease waste. The facility sends damaged pallets to a service provider for rebuilding and has reduced its cardboard boxes use by switching to plastic containers where possible or reusing boxes from previous shipments. It also purchased a new machine that has halved the amount of plastic shrink wrap utilized in comparison to manual usage.

A simple way to make a ‘true’ impact

Cintas's Toronto DC's initiative showcases how organizations can easily get started in achieving their zero waste goals, shrinking their carbon footprint, increasing efficiency and supporting sustainability through the TRUE program. By transforming upstream policies and practices both organizationally and at the individual employee level, Cintas's Toronto DC is a great example of how TRUE provides a simple blueprint aimed at helping spaces become more resource-efficient.

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