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Circular Economy: Transforming Trash into Treasure

December 14, 2020

As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” While it’s easy to apply this to antiques, souvenirs and keepsakes, it can also translate to sustainable practices.  

In a circular economy, materials that’d typically be thrown away can be reimagined and reinvented into something useful. This is how plastic pots enjoy a second life as hanging basketsplastic wrap is transformed into deck boards and EPS foam is revived as insulation. 

Lindsay Tornello, sustainability and recycle initiatives manager, has gone the extra mile to promote circular economy within The Home Depot. Lindsey maintains that most of the inspiration for the company’s recycling innovations simply come from curiosity, which has led her down some very interesting paths.  

At one of the company’s facilities, Lindsey found herself intrigued by a garbage truck carrying a load that appeared full, yet very light. After following it to the landfill, she witnessed the truck dumping its contents: 70-80 percent expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. From there, she was determined to find a way to reuse this waste material. 

Her vision was to take EPS foam from appliance packaging, pressure compact it into blocks, and sell it to companies that make insulation and other products. That’s exactly what The Home Depot has done.  

With three machines in operation, the pilot program prevented an average of 49,000 tons of polystyrene from going into landfills in 2019—and that’s just the beginning. The Home Depot plans to have 20 more in operation by the end of 2020.  

“Between the MDOs and RLCs, we now recycle not only metal, hard plastics and shrink wrap,” says Lindsey. “But we are now recycling Styrofoam packaging and the CFCs from reclaimed appliances.” 

Lindsey remains impressed by the company’s efforts to try new ideas in efforts to become more sustainable. "The Home Depot understands that sometimes, to be sustainably innovative, you need to be creative,” Lindsey reflects. “I appreciate the support I receive to think strategically and creatively—having that support makes all the difference in my ability to make a difference.” 

To learn more about The Home Depot’s commitment to a circular economy and other sustainability efforts, check out the 2020 Responsibility Report. 

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