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John Lewis: becoming more resource efficient

Image for John Lewis: becoming more resource efficientHow John Lewis is working in partnership with Smurfit Kappa to use its resources more efficiently

The John Lewis Partnership (JLP) comprises 39 John Lewis shops, 294 Waitrose supermarkets and an online and catalogue business. These leading retail businesses generate over 60,000 tonnes of waste and place over 130,000 tonnes of packaging on the market each year. The Partnership has set clear targets for diverting waste from landfill, increasing recycling rates and reducing the environmental impact of its packaging.

Part of the world’s largest fibre-based packaging group (Smurfit Kappa Group), Smurfit Kappa Recycling provides paper and board recycling solutions for businesses and organisations of all sizes. The group’s paper mills in Birmingham and Kent reprocess around 500,000 tonnes of material per annum, providing a sustainable market for recovered paper and card. As an integrated operation Smurfit Kappa can offer a closed loop solution encapsulating the collection of cardboard, recycling at UK mills, right through to the manufacturing of high quality board and corrugated packaging at its UK plants.

Logistics to Minimise Carbon Emissions

Two Waitrose distribution centres deliver used packaging materials direct to Smurfit Kappa’s UK paper mills, while four John Lewis and a further three Waitrose distribution centres have their baled cardboard collected by Smurfit Kappa Recycling’s own fleet which features specialist vehicles with demountable forklifts. Collectively, this provides Smurfit Kappa’s two UK paper mills with around 28,000 tonnes of recovered fibre each year for reprocessing into new packaging materials.  The flexibility of these combined collection and delivery models enable both companies to maximise the potential for back hauling, which in turn minimises carbon emissions.

 “A key element of The John Lewis Partnership Waste Strategy is to recycle in the UK to stimulate investment in processing infrastructure and support UK recycling business. We want to retain ownership of the waste we generate right through to end destination,” says John Lewis and Waitrose operations manager – recycling and waste Mike Walters.

Sharing Data

Sharing information on recycling performance (internally and with external contractors) is part of the ethos of the operations team and enables The JLP to continually improve its waste reduction strategy. Smurfit Kappa Recycling works closely with JLP identifying and supporting efficiency improvements. For example, it recently created a bespoke management reporting system to assist The JLP with accurately measuring improvements in its recycled tonnages generated at each site.

Click and Collect Boxes

In 2013 John Lewis embarked on a joint venture with Smurfit Kappa and some of its key packaging suppliers in the UK to create a closed loop packaging solution. Together they developed a way of re-using cardboard material that was initially delivered to John Lewis by its suppliers in the UK and overseas in the form of transit packaging. Historically this material would have been treated as waste at this point and, although it would have been recycled, its role as packaging per se was at an end. Now, using Smurfit Kappa’s integrated operation it is collected, reprocessed and reused by Smurfit Kappa’s corrugated packaging plants to make multi-channel “Click and Collect” delivery boxes that deliver John Lewis products directly to its customers’ homes. The new boxes are branded with the powerful message, “Made from Material Recycled by us in the UK” and feature the Forestry Stewardship Council logo (certifying responsible forest management). 

  • From beginning to end it can take just eight days to turn the recycled paper into Click and Collect boxes.
  • In 2013 the John Lewis distribution centre at Magna Park used 2,881,461 of these boxes, representing 550 tonnes of recycled material.

This material is also used in the making of John Lewis made-to-measure curtain delivery boxes and as primary packaging for John Lewis duvets, both manufactured in the UK at the John Lewis manufacturing site in Lancashire - Herbert Parkinson. 

  • In 2013, 25,000 duvets were packed into these boxes.

John Lewis own brand development, packaging design and production manager Mark Gallen says: “This initiative gives us the ownership of the waste we generate right through to its final destination and forms part of the substantial sustainability work John Lewis undertakes every year through our Bringing Quality to Life programme.”

For further information on the JLP and Smurfit Kappa Recycling visit

Category: Retail
Recycling UKHanicke Robins Sanderson