Retailers and Regulated Waste: Your ‘Google Maps’ Moment Has Arrived

by | May 22, 2019

Even after a career in high-tech, I’ve learned there are specific low-tech experiences I still enjoy. Flipping through a book’s pages, hearing the “crinkle” of a newspaper, putting a pen on paper—these experiences all occupy parts of my non-digital existence on occasion.

However, my low-tech nostalgia is noticeably absent when it comes to road trip technology. I can even point to a specific date— February 8, 2005—as the beginning of the end of my interaction with physical maps. That was when Google Maps launched. Soon after, the road maps I stored in my car’s door compartments were all but forgotten. Why?

I didn’t want to be the road trip “decision engine”—i.e., the navigator—anymore.

I wanted to put my energies elsewhere. Whether that meant concentrating on my duties behind the wheel or enjoying the scenery, I happily gave navigation responsibilities to my new partner. Google Maps made this choice easy and navigation mostly decision free: I followed directions, I drove, I arrived at the destination. The service also provided real-time information (current traffic issues, road closures, etc.) not available with traditional paper maps. In other words, road trips 2.0.

Despite the occasional glitch and connectivity problems, I can’t imagine my life without the technology.

I’m guessing you can’t, either.

Retailers attempting to navigate the roads of regulated waste and unsalable item management may arrive at the same conclusions. Like modern-day trip-takers, retailers may wish to invest their time in something other than making difficult decisions on how to properly process regulated waste and unsalable items. Without clear direction, employees making these decisions in the back of store run the risk of getting lost on a route to compliance risks, high expenses, time inefficiencies, and non-data-driven decision-making.

Retailers—like drivers—may not wish to be the decision engine anymore, either.

If you are a retailer and this description applies to you, good news: your Google Maps moment has arrived.

Answering ‘what’s next?’

Unfortunately, many retailers are on a less-than-optimized road trip when it comes to managing regulated waste and unsalable items. Sadly, many still live in a “Version 1.0” universe—which can be problematic for a back-of-store clerk who must answer this question concerning this merchandise: “What’s next?”

As in, should it be donated and tracked as a tax write-off? Is it diverted to a waste bucket? Is it recycled? Is it returned to the vendor? Or something else?

This answer can be daunting in a retail environment beholden to evolving state and federal regulations, environmental considerations and strict corporate oversight. Furthermore, considering that one-in-10 products carried by retailers are unsalable for various reasons (damage, expiration, customer return, etc.), the issue is not isolated.

Retail employees who answer these questions—who often have limited or no experience with regulated waste issues, are employed part-time or work in a high-turnover environment—must often wade through mountains of manuals and paperwork to verify best courses of action. Even then the solution may not be clear, and more information is needed. Without a decision engine, this process can become very cumbersome, very time-consuming and very confusing—very quickly.

Smarter Sorting is that decision engine for retailers.

Through simple data collection (scanning, weighing and photographing the product), Smarter Sorting calculates the optimal pathway for a product, integrating geographical regulations and company guidelines into potential management options. It then puts that collected data to work to optimize processes moving forward so retail employees don’t have to.

No more wrong turns or dead ends. Just clear, time-saving direction for back-of-store employees and streamlined operations that create cost savings, maximize tax benefits and minimize waste.

Yes, low-tech nostalgia may have a place in this world. I only hope it’s not in the back of your store.

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