An Efficiency Case in Point: Sprint Improves Waste Diversion

By Better Buildings Beat Team on Jul 09, 2020

As a participant in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Reduction Pilot, Sprint (now part of T-Mobile) has committed to tracking its waste reduction progress along with energy performance for the Better Buildings Challenge. As part of its expanded sustainability goals in 2019, Sprint committed to divert 50% of its operational waste stream from the landfill by 2025. In 2019, Sprint tracked waste at 400 properties and achieved a waste diversion rate of more than 40%—supporting Sprint’s aim to reduce its environmental footprint while still improving its bottom line.

As a pilot partner, Sprint has been sharing the work it has done through a systematic approach to waste management developed over the past decade to efficiently manage waste generated by employees in its stores, commercial office buildings, and network facilities where Sprint has operational control of vendor and service selection. One aspect of Sprint’s waste management program that has been particularly successful and engaging is employee education.

Sprint designed and implemented an internal education program to help employees recycle and improve waste diversion. The company’s “Trash is Deep” campaign made use of a range of educational materials and activities, such as internal videos, newsletter articles, informational shadow boxes, and Earth Day displays. The videos were animated, 60-second stories that illustrated where the three waste streams (recycle, compost, waste-to-energy) were sent once they left their HQ facility. Articles about the videos and overall program success appeared frequently in Sprint’s internal online newsletter and included FAQs to educate employees further. Shadowbox displays were installed above waste collection centers in 100 breakrooms at Sprint facilities, and each of the three partitions in the displays contained actual items pulled directly from trash generated by employees.

The efficiency education event that received the most visibility was Sprint’s annual Earth Day celebration. The waste reduction display, called “Recycle Often, Recycle Right,” was staffed by “trash whisperers” who had been trained to answer employee questions. They also conducted recycle relays to test employees’ understanding of proper waste sorting. Participants were given several items typically thrown out in the break rooms and had to race to the opposite end of the room to drop them in the corresponding container. It was a fun way to teach the participants as well as the spectators that each decision matters.

The team also took steps to make it easier for employees to recycle by expanding the options of what could be recycled at work, helping employees recycle their own household waste. For example, at its headquarters campus in Overland Park, Kansas, Sprint offers recycling for glass, plastic, aluminum, gently-used clothing, and document shredding.


Sprint has also expanded its waste reduction efforts to food waste. The company installed commercial-grade food pulpers in two cafeterias at the headquarters campus that grind food waste and extract water, reducing the volume of waste and creating compost that is taken to a local mulch manufacturing facility. This equipment, along with the addition of food waste collection in break rooms, has helped to divert food waste from landfills.

These efforts have shown the importance of employee education in waste reduction. The company recommends to its peers in DOE’s Waste Reduction Pilot that organizations engage their employees early and often to maximize results. Learn more about the pilot here.