The combined impact of rising landfill tariffs, Producer Responsibility Notes (PRNs) and spiralling energy and raw materials costs, has forced the retail sector to refocus its recycling efforts closer to home, according to industry officials.
As British Retail Consortium spokesman Nigel Smith explains: "There is a lot more baling going on back of store now than before as retailers attach a value to the material, that would not have existed previously. Retailers, he said "do not want to miss a trick" particularly given the increasing landfill costs and rising costs for packaging materials.
He continued: "There is a hell of a lot of activity in this area at the moment. With the PRN system in place it's a real no brainer for the big retailers to really capture what value they can from waste plastics. This material is no longer seen as waste, it is now a real resource."
The PIFA leader noted: "UK companies have a particular incentive in the form of PRNs, which enable them to trade off amounts being recycled against their recycling obligations."
These trends were highlighted recently by ASDA, which has just established four new recycling facilities-- in Lutterworth, Wakefield, Skelmersdale and Bedfordwill -- at a cost of £32 million. The recycling centres will be served by ASDA vehicles delivering cardboard and plastic packaging from the company's stores. The facilities will bale the materials and deliver them to reprocessors.
The investment is part of a UK-wide programme, which includes a target to recycle 283 million carrier bags equivalent to 2300 tonnes of plastics, according to the Leeds-headquartered supermarket chain.
ASDA's programme may soon get a boost from parent company Wal-Mart, which is introducing a new baling technology. In an 11-month pilot scheme, the US retail giant recycled 1,100 tonnes of plastics waste with the Plastic Sandwich Bale process, which compresses shrink-wrap, garment bags and other plastics scrap between to cardboard sections.
The UK's largest supermarket chain Tesco, however, claims to lead the field in this area, with some long-established systems for back-of-store recycling.
Tesco last year recycled 200,000 tonnes of its back-of-store plastics cardboard and paper waste this year, according to a company spokesman.
This, she said, exceeded a "stringent" target to recycle 65% of its back of store waste and the supermarket has now raised its target for 2005/06 to 68%.
The Tesco representative added: "Every lorry that delivers to Tesco receives in-store waste and brings it back for sorting, distribution and recycling. So there are no empty lorries. We have been doing this for around a decade, whereas other supermarkets have only recently started."
The drive by the major UK retailers to increase back-of-store recycling is happening alongside programmes to introduce new returnable-tray and shelf-ready packaging systems that reduce the in-store waste stream.
As Smith of the BRC explains: "The big supermarkets are moving to returnable tray system and a