At the turn of the year, the profile of recycling at supermarkets received two major boosts: first with a £1.2 million cash injection for a project to evaluate the impact of front-of-store recycling facilities on local household waste recycling rates and, second, with a major reverse vending trial at Britain's biggest retailer Tesco. The outcomes of both could do much to influence the way that recyclates are collected and recovered from supermarket sites around the UK.
Supermarkets are at the heart of recycling opportunities. Their car parks often provide the most convenient opportunities for the public to recycle rubbish as they can combine recycling with a shopping trip. And research by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) suggests that half of household waste originally comes from products sold at the supermarkets in the first place. The supermarkets have generally welcomed the chance to provide such facilities as they allow the out-of-town shopping location - often cited as a community-divisive element - to offer a positive service for locals.
Consequently, WRAP with the help of government funding, launched an evaluation project involving partnerships between supermarket chains, local authorities, technology vendors and waste management companies to pilot new ways of encouraging householders to recycle their waste at supermarkets at the tail end of 2005.
WRAP's research will assess a number of innovative and improved front-of-store recycling techniques, including the use of new technology, improved facilities and financial incentives such as retailer loyalty card points and shopping discount vouchers. The results will help WRAP to establish how effective these differ-ent approaches might be in boosting local recycling rates, attracting new people to recycling, and to disseminate these results.
Mark Barthel, WRAP's special adviser on retailer initiatives, says: "This project gives us the opportunity to test the proposition that, by providing attractive, easy-to-use facilities and offering financial incentives, we can engage with a segment of the population that would not normally recycle and increase local household recycling rates. The chance to test new approaches and technology, develop smarter bring sites and engage in innovative private and public partnerships makes this a very exciting project."
A WRAP spokesman confirms that the organisation is about to make an announcement on the first two retailer participants for this scheme, with further information expected as MRW went to press. The trials will be completed by the end of March 2006, when the findings will be assessed and disseminated with the aim of providing guidance on best practice.
At around the same time as WRAP's announcement about funding, the UK's biggest retailer, Tesco, launched Britain's first fully automated recycling machine, which is designed to encourage customers to recycle more of their household waste by making the process easier. Indeed, the retailer's role should not be underestimated - Tesco's 450 sites now account for around 13% of all recyclable household waste collected by local authorities each year.
The company has been involved in trials before. A couple of years ago, Valpak and Tesco launched a front-of-store recycling trial at three Tesco stores in Hertfordshire, where undercover recycling centres with easily removable collection bins and advertising space was made available.
Tesco had originally been looking at a wider roll-out but, says a spokesman: "Although these units have been popular with customers, operationally they