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Waste Reduction

Sprint strives to be a responsible steward of the resources it consumes. The company seeks to optimize the amount of resources used for operations, which is the first step toward reducing the amount of waste generated. Sprint then emphasizes the reuse and recycling of that waste whenever feasible to reduce the company's overall impact on landfills.

Sprint's goal is to reduce the amount of operational waste it sends to landfills by 30 percent by 2017. Originally, the target reduction was to be based on the amount of waste generated by Sprint in 2007. As Sprint has come to better understand its waste — generated by nearly 2,300 manned sites across the U.S. — and the limitations of its reporting capabilities, this approach is undergoing a transition.

In the past, Sprint estimated its operational-waste footprint based on reporting available from waste-removal invoices for a portion of its sites. That data was used to create an average landfill-to-waste figure per square foot of property for each facility type. Those averages were then applied to the total square footage for their respective facility type to develop a comprehensive estimate for all Sprint sites.

The challenge with this approach is that Sprint had little to no visibility into the actual waste practices in non-reporting sites (e.g., how much landfill waste was produced, whether recycling was in place, etc.). By default, the estimates assumed no recycling was being conducted. This likely overestimated waste-to-landfill figures as non-reporting sites comprise the majority of Sprint facilities. To address this issue of limited visibility, Sprint has decided to sharpen the focus of its reporting.

Sprint's public reporting of landfill waste will now focus on sites where it maintains Operational Control (OC) of waste removal services. In these OC sites, Sprint controls which vendor provides waste removal and receives a direct bill for that service. The OC sites represent 84 percent of the square feet in Sprint's entire facility portfolio (sites that receive any type of utility bill &mdash: electricity, waste, water, etc.).

While some vendors report how much waste is removed in their billing, not all do. As shown in the following table, Sprint has worked with its vendors in recent years to increase visibility to that reporting. The largest increases have come since the end of 2010, when Sprint began consolidating waste-removal services for its OC sites into national contracts &mdash: for details, click "National Roll-out" in the Learn More box. By the end of 2011, Sprint received reporting for sites that represent 75 percent of the square feet in its OC portfolio (which equals 63 percent of its entire facility portfolio). That's a 30 percent increase in site reporting since 2008.

Percent of OC Sites Reporting Landfill and/or Recycling

As % of Total SqFt per Year                           
Type of Facility 2008 2009 2010 2011
Commercial Sites 78% 81% 89% 94%
Technical Sites 4% 12% 24% 39%
Retail Sites 0% 0% 81% 82%
All Sites 45% 50% 66% 75%


Rather than extrapolating this data to estimate the unknown waste generated by non-reporting sites, Sprint's operational-waste footprint now reflects only the reported data provided by its waste-removal vendors. The following table provides that breakdown. For example, the total waste generated in 2011 by those Sprint OC sites that provided reporting was 5,871 metric tons. Of that amount, 1,569 metric tons was diverted from landfills via recycling — resulting in a landfill diversion rate of 27 percent.

While calculated differently than Sprint's original goal to reduce the level of landfill waste 30 percent from its baseline level in 2007, this measure does offer a consistent means of tracking landfill diversion for now. Sprint's intent is to eventually resume the original measure. However, Sprint will likely reset the baseline year for the original goal due to the lack of detailed data and the low percent of sites reporting associate with 2007. Sprint will be much closer to 100% reporting for its OC sites by the end of 2012. With that in mind, it is probable that 2012 will serve as the new baseline.

Amount of Waste for All OC Sites Reporting Landfill and/or Recycling

Metric Tons per Year                           
Type of Operational Waste 2008 2009 2010 2011
Landfill 2,010 2,467 3,452 4,302
Recycling 700 1,120 1,027 1,569
Total 2,710 3,587 4,478 5,871
Landfill Diversion Rate 26% 31% 23% 27%


In summary, Sprint has made tremendous strides in understanding its operational-waste data and establishing a repeatable, auditable process to measure and report on landfill-diversion performance.

Sprint will continue to refine this measure as reporting accuracy matures within waste removal industry. Many opportunities exist for improvement. For instance, the vast majority of trucks used to haul waste and recycling in the U.S. have no on-board scales to weigh how is much actually removed from a site. With no system in place to weigh the load, waste removers tend to measure based on the volume of the container and assume it is full. In addition, there is no set of standard conversion rates used industry-wide to determine how much a cubic yard of waste weighs in pounds by type. Moving forward, Sprint will seek opportunities to encourage its vendors and the waste industry to address these issues.



Sprint recognizes the benefits of recycling. Diverting reusable materials from the waste stream helps to conserve landfill space, preserve the environment and reduce the energy and resources required to extract virgin materials. It also provides bottom-line benefits like reduced waste-hauling and landfill-tipping fees. In some cases, it even yields financial rebates for recyclable material captured. Inspired by these benefits, Sprint has increased waste recycling, as reported by its OC and non-OC sites, from 683 metric tons in 2007 to 2,293 metric tons in 2011 — more than three-fold.

For recycling, Sprint is comfortable including the amount of material reported even from non-OC sites (i.e., facilities where Sprint has no operation control over the general vendor for waste removal). This is because many materials are collected and reported by specialty vendors that Sprint hires. Examples include a national vendor for fluorescent-bulb recycling who services all Sprint sites and another vendor who collects, shreds and recycles documents for Sprint retail stores. Following is a list of all the materials in Sprint's operational waste stream collected for recycling by facility type.

Amount of Material Recycled for All OC and Non-OC Sites Reporting

Reporting for 2011 (Metric Tons)                           
Material Type Commercial Sites Technical Sites Retail Sites Total
Office Paper 91.8 8.6 40.6 140.9
Cardboard 77.3 3.7 0.0 81.1
Scrap Pallets 2.3 0.0 0.0 2.3
Compost 32.9 0.0 0.0 32.9
Batteries 3.7 0.6 3.7 8.0
Plastic-Aluminum 22.1 5.1 0.0 27.2
Toner Cartridges 2.4 0.2 0.0 2.7
Metals 2.8 0.0 0.0 2.8
Lamps 2.5 0.0 0.0 2.5
Glass 103.0 1.3 0.0 104.3
Oil 2.9 0.0 0.0 2.9
Rubber 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.4
Shredded Paper 567.0 161.1 408.8 1136.9
Furniture 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.3
Single Stream 372.0 152.3 223.4 747.7
Total Recycled 1283.3 332.9 676.5 2292.7



As shown in the table above, Sprint recycles some valuable materials through composting. For example, food waste from the cafeterias and coffee shops at Sprint's headquarters campus in Overland Park, Kan., is composted. Special bins and biodegradable liners are used by staff to collect the food waste. The diverted landfill waste in these containers is picked up three times per week and taken to a local composting farm run by Missouri Organic. This all takes place behind the scenes, so the only difference Sprint employees experience is the satisfaction of knowing cafeteria-food waste is being repurposed. Discard is collected from prep areas, dirty plates and perishable unsold items. Paper napkins go in the food-waste collection along with paper cups. Even organic-landscape waste from the campus is captured for composting. Sprint then closes the loop by purchasing the resulting compost from Missouri Organics for use in campus landscaping.