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Retail recycling is making huge strides but can still improve, writes Quantum PR’s Adrienne Robins

 In July 2013, the estimated weekly spend across all retailing averaged £7.0 billion, up from £6.8 billion in June 2013 and £6.7 billion in July 2012. In fact, the Office for National Statistics reports that while retail growth all but flatlined between 2008 and 2012, the last six months has seen an increase of 4 per cent.

Combined with a resurgence of interest in the property sector, retail businesses and those that support them will be hoping that the long forgotten green shoots of 2010/11 are finally beginning to bloom.

While traditional retailers have been weathering the double whammy of recession and a shift to online shopping, the sector has not been short on developing new recycling and waste management programmes which improve cost performance and, at the same time, do wonders for brand’s environmental reputation.

In fact many of the retailers and shopping centres that have stayed the course thus far have done so by taking early strategic decisions to ensure that their offer has audience resonance while at the same time putting in place initiatives that deliver a quick and valuable return on investment.

Improvements to, and innovation within waste management, recycling and resource efficiency programmes have proved to be one such route to making a difference.

Talking to SAICA Natur regional director Charles Swainston - one of the UK’s leading retail recycling specialists - it’s clear to see that small changes in approach and expectation to waste management can deliver service cost reductions, and in some instances will turn cost into a revenue stream.

Also important, is the surge in positive recognition that some retail brands have achieved by promoting improved recycling and resource efficiency performance at a local, regional and national level, influencing purchaser opinions. These are factors that are increasingly being recognised as important sales influencers.

On the current state of retail recycling and waste management, Charles says: “We visit a vast number of retailers and shopping centres and it’s clear that there is a great variation in the quantity, quality and value of the materials recycled.

“Naturally, some of the larger brands are doing well, and their activities have attracted significant media attention.

“But this could make smaller or independent retailers think that change requires a big budget and team – which is most definitely not the case.”

To highlight how retail businesses, and the supporting supply chain, can improve performance, SAICA is reviewing best practice activities across the sector and will be highlighting examples from key brands and destinations at this year’s RWM exhibition.

Initial findings will be highlighted in two roundtable panel discussions taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday in the C&I Theatre (see box below).

“It’s our aim to highlight the breadth, depth, innovation and in some cases simplicity of the changes that can be made within the retail sector so that everyone, whatever their situation, can benefit from cost and environmental improvements,” says Charles.

Case study: Princes Mead Shopping Centre

Princes Mead Shopping Centre“SAICA Natur has helped us improve our recycling, going from 25 per cent to 75 per cent almost overnight. We don’t send anything to landfill and we’ve cut costs and engaged our tenants in the process. It’s opened our eyes to what can be achieved.”  David Pickett, centre director, Princes Mead Shopping Centre

In 2012, David Pickett decided to review the centre’s waste and recycling management practices. SAICA Natur was called in to advise and assist.

The initial assessment of Princes Mead highlighted high levels of food waste being sent to landfill, despite having just three food outlets among its 43 retailers. A total of three compaction units with unrestricted access across the centre added to the difficulties, coupled with low levels of retailer recycling segregation. At the time, Princes Mead was recycling cardboard only, operating at a low recycling rate of 25 per cent.

A comprehensive course of action was agreed with the objective of engaging retailers, maintaining interest and providing them with practical and user-friendly solutions. The aim was to dramatically increase resource efficiency, diverting all waste away from landfill, while extending the recycling systems to capture maximum materials and include polythene, paper, dry mixed recycling and food waste.

A small baler was introduced to generate polythene and paper revenue streams while dry mixed recycling via wheelie bins increased overall recycling rates and reduced costs.

A flexible food waste collection service was introduced to handle the large amount of food waste produced.

The results were dramatic leading to its current 75 per cent recycling.

Case study: Whiteley Shopping Centre

Whiteley Shopping Centre, located in south Hampshire, reopened in May 2013 after it was demolished 
in 2011. The £84 million development of more than 50 retail and leisure units extends across 320,000 sq ft.

To minimise operational costs, Whiteley needed to adopt a common retailers’ strategy and recycle the maximum amount of cardboard and plastic to generate substantial rebates.

To achieve this SAICA Natur was tasked with providing new waste and recycling equipment and developing and implementing strategies to achieve high recycling rates and operational efficiency.

The objective was to achieve zero direct waste to landfill within the first 12 months.

New services for cardboard, polythene and glass recycling were proposed alongside separate food waste and dry mixed collections.

Colour coded wheelie bins were strategically placed in service yards to encourage retailers to use correct bins and improve recycling performance.

Bins for cardboard and polythene, and general waste bins were scheduled to be emptied by the cleaning team who would then take them to a central processing area where the waste would either be baled or compacted.

The general waste compactor would be emptied on request only.

Just two months since opening, recycling rates are at 80 per cent and this is expected to rise further as retailers get used to the coloured bin system.

Category: Retail
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