Two REI Co-op designers working over a table on jacket designs.

Eliminating Waste

Eliminating waste is good for our business and good for the planet. For years we have worked to design and scale packaging sustainability standards and minimize waste throughout our operations. We will continue to do so, and we will learn from our experiences and share openly with others.

Zero Waste

REI continues to work toward a 2025 goal of zero waste across our operations. The threshold for "zero waste,” as defined by certifiers such as TRUE, is diverting a minimum of 90% of waste from landfills. We have achieved this in our distribution centers and are continually raising the bar in our retail stores, often with the direct input and assistance of our store employees, who share our passion for this work. In 2020, we launched plastic film backhaul across our entire fleet as a direct result of employee input about how much plastic they were dealing with in-store.

We use a "reduce, reuse, recycle" framework to eliminate waste at the front end of the manufacturing process. We also examine and re-engineer practices causing waste generation throughout our operations, from manufacturing and product placement in our stores, to our work with local waste authorities and haulers.

Here are a few ways we're working toward our aspiration to become a zero-waste organization:

  • Requesting that our vendor partners seek alternatives to individual plastic bags for shipping of product and charging them a recycling fee for using individual plastic bags. This action alone could eliminate over 50 tons of plastic film waste per year.

  • Implementing backhaul of film plastics from our stores to our distribution centers for baling and recycling with Trex. This will divert the largest segment of material in our retail waste stream from landfills. To date, we have recycled nearly 1.4M pounds of plastic through this program, enough to make nearly eight football fields of decking.

  • Achieving TRUE Zero Waste certification for our Sumner, WA, distribution center in 2019 and certifying our Bedford, PA, and Goodyear, AZ, distribution centers in early 2021. In 2022, we certified our Seattle and Issaquah, WA, retail locations.

  • Joining with industry peers in establishing a recycling system for e-bike batteries. In 2022, REI joined an initiative coordinated by PeopleForBikes to have batteries collected and recycled by Call2Recycle.

  • Increasing recycling and recovery options for difficult-to-recycle materials in our waste stream by partnering with suppliers and peers in retail to develop innovative system solutions.

Overall, REI diverted 84% of operational waste from landfills in 2022. The graphs below show our progress toward our goal to be zero waste across our operations by 2025; and a breakdown of waste from retail stores, distribution centers, and offices.

2018-2022 Operational Waste Diversion from Landfill

This graph shows our progress toward our goal to be zero waste across our operations by 2025. Overall, REI diverted 84% of operational waste from landfills in 2022.

2022 Operational Waste by Channel

This graph shows REI's operational waste by channel as a percentage. In 2022, 70% came from retail stores, 29% came from distribution centers, and 1% came from offices.


The perfect packaging design finds the optimal balance of product protection, sustainable materials , and waste minimization. REI prioritizes paper-based packaging that is FSC-certified or made from certified postconsumer waste. We also focus on creating packaging that is designed to be easily recycled. With the assistance of the Outdoor Industry Association and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, REI has published sustainable packaging guidelines to encourage and educate our vendors. These guidelines support not only REI Co-op and Co-op Cycles, but also the brands we sell within our stores, and the greater outdoor and cycling industries.

Whenever possible, we seek ways to eliminate packaging altogether. We have largely eliminated the use of individual polyethylene plastic bags—commonly referred to as “polybags”—for REI Co-op brand apparel. To increase packing efficiency and reduce packaging waste, we implemented the “roll-pack” packaging method for most REI Co-op brand apparel styles. Products are loosely rolled and secured with a small twist of FSC-certified undyed paper.

GreenBlue's How2Recycle Label™

We're proud of our role in aligning the broader industry around the How2Recycle® Label. It is a voluntary, standardized labeling system that clearly communicates instructions to consumers on how to recycle packaging. It involves a coalition of forward-thinking brands that want their packaging to be recycled and are empowering consumers through smart labels. Most of the primary packaging for our REI Co-op brand products is now labeled with the How2Recycle guidance. REI was one of the first brands to adopt the How2Recycle Label for our REI Co-op brand and Co-op Cycles product packaging. We encourage other brands and retailers to join us in this commitment.

Paper and Sustainable Forestry

Healthy forests are essential for a healthy planet and for people to enjoy the outdoors. They’re also essential to REI’s business. We use fiber and the resulting paper products—including flyers, cardboard, shopping bags, hangtags and more—throughout our operations. As a co-op that inspires our members to spend more time outside, sustainable forestry is a natural focus for us.

Our paper and paper products purchasing policy is a direct reflection of our values. It's designed to positively influence paper supply chains well beyond our immediate sphere. We also intend our policy to support sustainable forestry systems. We believe that forestry products can be a much-preferred alternative to other materials—if sourced and produced by sustainable methods.

When we purchase paper products, we strongly prefer postconsumer waste, or virgin fiber harvested from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified forests. In 2022, REI received an FSC Leadership Award for our work to support responsible forest management and forest conservation through our preference for FSC wood products.The mark of sustainable forestry. F S C N 0 0 2 8 7 8

The accompanying graph summarizes the sources of paper used across the co-op in our marketing, omni-channel fulfillment, REI Co-op brand packaging, and operational paper use. “Acceptable” papers are defined as those containing pre-consumer recycled material, fiber from known, legal sources, or certified by other fiber certification systems such as Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

2016-2022 Paper Fiber Usage

This graph illustrates paper fiber usage by REI from 2016 to 2022 with an overlay of tons per million in revenue. In 2022, REI saw an increase in paper fiber usage, but a decrease in tons per million revenue.