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Shopping around for waste solutions

Retail waste is created on two levels: by the retailer at the point of sale and by the consumer once the sale has been made. For this reason it can be tackled on several different fronts. Advances are being made by those advising retailers on waste minimisation and management infrastructure, while organisations continue to educate the purchasing public on their attitudes and behaviour towards rubbish and recycling.

One of the most visible developments in the management of retail waste generated at the point of sale has been the launch of the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) retail assessment tool.

BREEAM is a long-established building industry tool that enables owners, users and designers to review and improve the environmental performance of a structure. Based on years of construction and environmental research carried out by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), it encompasses schemes that cover offices, houses, industrial units and now retail developments.

This new scheme focuses on building-related environmental impacts and can be used to assess everything from entire shopping centres to general retail outlets. It covers retail developments at design, tenant fit-out and operation, and management stages and provides individually tailored assessments, which acknowledge the practical areas of stakeholder influence. Areas addressed by BREEAM include: management, energy, pollution, ecology and waste and resources.

New and existing buildings are assessed against a number of environmental criteria and awarded a score depending on how much they have reduced their negative environmental impact.

The scheme, which took two years to develop, was led by BRE in partnership with consulting engineers FaberMaunsell, and consultancies WSP Environmental and Upstream. Retail sponsors involved in the project include BAA, British Land Company, Chartwell Land Development, Marks & Spencer, Sainsburys Property Services and Tesco. The British Retail Consortium has also been involved.

In terms of waste management, the BREEAM assessment will cover a wide range of areas and activities. Customer recycling facilities, the provision of recycling bins and a commitment to segregation at source are all listed on the assessment form. Other areas considered by the scheme include the incorporation of on-site compaction and baling equipment and composting facilities; the adoption of a dedicated waste strategy followed by monitoring and targeting; and commitment to undertaking a waste audit that will provide the information required to implement waste minimisation procedures.

Although waste generated within the retail outlet is being tackled by a combination of the Packaging Directive and BREEAM, these programmes will do little to stem the tide of consumer waste. This is the domain of more mainstream waste minimisation and recycling organisations, which continue to try and influence the publics attitudes and behaviour.

In March of this year a five-week campaign to do precisely this was launched by Rethink Rubbish Western Riverside and a group of retailers including Asda, Safeway, Sainsburys and Tesco. The campaign, which was rolled out to 19 supermarkets across the London boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham, and Wandsworth, aimed to increase consumer awareness of the range of materials that can be recycled in the councils weekly orange sack collection service. Shoppers were exposed to eye-catching advertising on shopping trolleys, baskets and supermarket floors, as well as point-of-sale materials strategically positioned around stores to highlight recyclables.

During the campaign 10,000 cloth shopping bags containing information on local recycling services were given out to shoppers. Responses were extremely positive, with shoppers expressing an overwhelming preference for the cloth bags over their plastic alternative.

The campaign was guided by research undertaken by MORI/Open University and a local waste audit commissioned by Rethink

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