Walking on the Upper East Side with friends one night, we found bags of CVS’s trash filled with edamame snacks that didn’t expire for eight months. I checked to see if there was a product recall or evidence of mice, both legitimate reasons to toss food, but there wasn’t.
After gathering more evidence of CVS’s unnecessary wastefulness, I emailed the CEO, Larry Merlo (his email was surprisingly easy to find on Google). My years at the investment bank taught me to go straight to the decision maker.
The next day one of the regional managers in NYC called and confirmed that my email had reached Larry Merlo, that CVS employees were not allowed to take home any of these unwanted products, and that he received special permission from high up to form local donation partnerships (CVS already had a national partnership with Feeding America, but clearly it wasn’t fully working).
After several months of waiting for change but continuing to see trash bags filled with usable items, I realized that CVS wasn’t going to adjust its national operations in response to one random person’s complaint.
So I began a change.org campaign calling for CVS to #DonateDontDump. Now, instead of one person asking for this change, there are over 300,000 of us asking CVS to donate.
CVS is not the only corporation that intentionally discards usable items. Many do, including Party City, Walgreens, Staples, PetSmart, GameStop, Ulta, Michael’s, and Bath and Body Works.
But I think CVS is a good starting point, given its ubiquity (it’s the largest pharmacy in the U.S.), its do-good image (eliminating cigarettes, for example), and its product selection (items shelters really need, like tampons and granola bars).
ANNA SACKS, “Trash to Treasure” on the Lilith Blog.