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Retail world battles waste

The retail world is battling to meet the recycling and waste pledges that they made last year. Some retail chains have already achieved what they set out to do last year and have provided interesting results on their achievements.

It was green tills galore with Waitrose, as it announced that its customers had reduced the amount of plastic bags they used by 20%. The green till is a plastic bag free checkout where customers get priority to be served first if they have their own shopping bags.  Waitrose trialled this out in 14 of its stores and as a result of its success has continued with its scheme. Branches across the country took part in the scheme including: Newport and Wolverhampton, Holloway Road in London and Banstead in Surrey.

Waitrose customer service manager Amy Luxford said: Our initial trials showed that we reduced the number of free carrier bags being used by branches with a green till by around 20%. Customers at these stores became green pioneers, demonstrating they are committed to reducing the use of plastic bags and as a result of this success, we have continued to operate a green till in 14 branches.

We will make further assessments before deciding on the next steps for the business.
The move was designed to promote the reuse and recycling of plastic carrier bags and the store pledges to achieve the targets agreed under the Courtauld Commitment and reduce the amount of food packaging its uses.

Another store that has made inroads on their pledges to increase recycling and decrease waste is Marks & Spencer. In their recent Plan A: Year One Review report, M&S highlight its successes. Last year M&S committed to: ...stop sending waste to landfill from our stores, offices and warehouses, reduce our use of packaging and carrier bags, and find new ways to recycle and reuse the materials we use.  M&S achieved the following:
* Reduced the use of carrier bags by 11% across its stores between April and December 2007;
* Reduced its plastic bag use by 66% in its Northern Ireland stores after introducing a 5 pence charge on its bags;
* Will roll out a similar trial to 35 other stores in the South West of England by the end of January 2008;
* Increased hanger recycling in stores by 32%;
* Recycled construction waste from its store refurbishment programme to 75% in 2007 and will push it up to 85% in 2008.

M&S has also introduced another major trial across the UK and Ireland with Oxfam to incentivise people to donate their used clothing to Oxfam stores. Anyone who donates M&S clothing at an Oxfam store will receive a £5 voucher for use when they purchase M&S clothing. However, the scheme has come under criticism from some quarters of the textile industry. Lawrence M Barry textile recycling manager Michelle Goggi said: My worry is that because M&S are paying people to donate to Oxfam that other charities will miss out who also rely on donated clothing.

Some sceptics might argue that this is a marketing ploy to pump money back into its stores. Wouldnt it have been a nicer and more charitable gesture for every sack donated, M&S would donate £5 to Oxfam?

M&S admit that it still has some challenges that it faces for 2008 which include: continuing to work on our plans to send zero waste to landfill; continuing the good progress currently being made to reduce our use of packaging and improve its recyclability; widening our carrier bag charging trial to M&S stores in the South West of England; and implementing our clothing recycling trial with Oxfam.

British Retail Consortium, the retail trade association, has said that retailers are setting themselves tougher targets and are focused more than ever on their commitments to reduce waste. A BRC spokesman told MRW: Retailers are focused on reducing waste and are actively committing on the pledges that they have already made, without the need for any draconian legislation. This has been done partly because of customer demand and partly because of environmental pledges.

The idea of retailers reducing their packaging has always been there because there has always been an incentive to reduce waste and save money. There is a perception from some campaign groups that retailers are pointlessly wrapping goods in unnecessary packaging for the hell of it. But reducing their packaging actually saves on costs and keeps goods fresh and protects goods from damage.

The BRC praised innovative initiatives like the green till scheme from Waitrose for encouraging customers to be more environmentally conscious, whilst not punishing and charging customers as a whole if they forget their shopping bags.

In addition to this electrical retailers are providing £10 million between July 2007, when the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment was introduced and December 2009, added the BRC spokesman.

So that is £10 million over two and a half years. The money is going to local authorities to upgrade their waste and recycling centres to enable those that cant already to collect waste electrical products.



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