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Resourceful retailers

As a consumer facing industry, and under the demands of increasing environmental legislation, it is becoming increasingly important that companies operating within the retail sector can demonstrate impeccable recycling rates. With the help of national environmental consultancy WasteSolve, Westfield has been taking its sustainability targets very seriously, and says it has reached the coveted zero-waste-to-landfill accolade through an innovative staff engagement programme that ensures all waste is treated as a resource by staff from the shop floor to the head office.

Westfield’s School of Sustainability - The Green Academy - is based around behaviour change, encouraging and rewarding people to adopt new ways of thinking and acting, for example to consider every used item as an untapped resource to recycle, rather than something to throw away. The programme puts people at the heart of change, harnessing their energy and enthusiasm through light hearted competition and activities. 

The campaign was launched in June 2011 at the participating sites - Westfield London and Westfield Merry Hill with Westfield Stratford City joining when it opened last September.  The programme encourages light hearted competition to be ‘best in class’ between the shopping centres. A school handbook detailing what was involved in the resource management programme was personally delivered to each retailer by WasteSolve staff, who were on hand to answer questions and offer training about new segregation practices. Clear signage was also introduced in all bin areas so that all staff could be clear about which bin to dispose their waste in.

Westfield was keen to implement best practice environmental solutions, after setting new records for sustainable retail construction with the launch of Westfield Stratford City. The Green Academy resource management programme demonstrates the company’s continued commitment to environmental best practice. With its sites including the largest shopping centre in Europe, waste – and food waste in particular, is inevitable. Yet all participating sites are recycling 100% of all waste produced on site, including sending 100% of food waste to AD.

“Our commitment to sustainable green policies means our visitors really know they are experiencing something special when they visit a Westfield shopping centre, and by continually evaluating our practises, a Westfield shopping experience can only get even better,” says Westfield director of operations Bill Giouroukos.

From the average total of all waste streams produced at Westfield Stratford City every month, 8% is food waste sent to AD, 26% per cent is sent to energy treatment, with the remaining 66% of waste, such as plastics and cardboard, sent for reprocessing and reuse. This achievement is mirrored at other participating sites.  However, Westfield hopes to further improve on these figures, striving for an 80% recycling rate overall and 20% energy recovery at all participating sites. Once achieved, this will take the centre beyond the current 70% recycling rate outlined in the London 2012 Olympic site’s Zero Waste Event Protocol.

The main challenge for the Green Academy was to achieve best practice across all participating sites, but to do so with minimum transport mileage. With this in mind, the Green Academy employs the latest recycling technologies available in the surrounding area, to ensure that waste miles are also kept to a minimum.  For example, while the majority of food waste from all participating sites is recycled via the gold standard in food waste recycling Anaerobic Digestion (AD), where this is not possible (e.g. in Northern Ireland) WasteSolve utilises in-vessel composting solutions. 

All participating sites have achieved zero waste to landfill and across these sites an average of 195 tonnes of food is sent to AD every month generating 39,000 KwH of electricity. This Christmas Westfield produced 25% more waste than any previous holiday period and all of this was captured and recycled.

In order to ensure that all staff remain engaged in the programme, regular refresher campaigns are conducted, where waste team staff individually visit each retailer to provide any additional training to new staff members or answer any questions.  For example, a third of waste is generated in the month before Christmas, when staff can be most stretched and let recycling slip.  To pre-empt this positively  ‘elves’ visited every store with extra gift-wrapped recycling bags and the message ‘Wrap up recycling this Christmas’, offering on the spot training for seasonal staff.

Kate Cawley is business development manager at WasteSolve

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