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Home Depot employee sparks debate with photo of cart full of products headed to dumpster: 'A complete waste'

"Worked here 11 years and I am still not used to seeing all these plants go down the dumpster."

"Worked here 11 years and I am still not used to seeing all these plants go down the dumpster."

Photo Credit: iStock

A Home Depot employee may have gardeners everywhere ready to jump in after a photo revealed a dumpster-destined cart full of wilted yet revivable greenery. 

What happened?

The employee lamented the loss of the plants in the subreddit r/HomeDepot, calling the practice of tossing the unsold items "a complete waste."

"Worked here 11 years and I am still not used to seeing all these plants go down the dumpster."
Photo Credit: Reddit

"The fact that they probably could have planted these or given them away to Associates instead of just throwing them away is messed up," the original poster shared

Other Redditors chimed in with their takes, with multiple plant vendors pointing out the limited floor space and "intense pressure" to sell perfect plants.

"If we kept every plant that could potentially survive, the store would be absolutely drowning in a labyrinth of plant carts," one person said

"Worked here 11 years and I am still not used to seeing all these plants go down the dumpster," another commenter sadly stated.

Why is this important?

The OP's photo is a sobering reminder of how our consumption policies and practices can generate excess waste that contributes to poorer environmental and potentially public health. 

For one, the plant pots appear to be made from plastics, which don't break down naturally. Instead, the nonbiodegradable material slowly sheds toxic microplastics that can enter our food chain (after being ingested by seafood, for example). 

According to a study in the journal PLOS One, our oceans alone are flooded with an estimated 170-plus trillion plastic particles, leading the authors to conclude the world needs "urgent international policy interventions." 

Meanwhile, living, growing greenery is an ally in more ways than one. Multiple studies have found that experiences with nature reduce stress. Plants also improve air quality by soaking up carbon dioxide (a planet-warming gas) and converting it to oxygen.

When we leave unsold plants to decompose in landfills, however, they release methane, a potent heat-trapping gas with 28 times more planet-warming potential than carbon dioxide.

"Why can't y'all just donate them?" one Redditor asked, to which others replied that it would result in large amounts of lost revenue and additional logistics for businesses. 

Does Home Depot have any policies aimed at limiting harmful waste?

On its website, the home improvement giant outlines a robust sustainability policy. Focus areas include improved supply-chain efficiency, the protection of forests through responsibly sourced wood, and partnering with ocean freight carriers dedicated to reducing pollution from operations, including potentially through the use of cleaner fuels such as green ammonia. The chain also promotes electric tools and told TCD that 85% of its outdoor lawn equipment will be electric by 2028.

The Cool Down couldn't find any companywide policy regarding reducing organic waste, but it appears multiple locations are involved in composting or other programs to prevent products such as flowers and soil from going to trash bins. 

According to a 2021 sustainability report, more than 20 stores in Washington state have partnered with environmental solutions company Cedar Grove to transform organic waste into compost that local Home Depots sell. Prior to that, items were going in the dumpster. 

"We at least have a special dumpster for them, and the city takes them to mulch them," another commenter shared

What can be done about harmful waste more broadly? 

Corporate composting programs can handle large volumes of waste, and home initiatives are one way to support those efforts. If you substitute homemade compost for store-bought fertilizer, the practice could even save you a nice chunk of change on lawn maintenance.

Purchasing from brands with plastic-free packaging or selecting plastic-free alternatives for everyday products (including shampoo and razors) can also help reduce toxic material waste. 

If you have existing fruit, herb, or vegetable plants, there are also plenty of hacks that can provide you with an abundant supply of seeds for your garden without another trip to the store.

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