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Zero waste M&S calls for action to boost business recycling

Government must do more to create a universal recycling service for business, according to Marks and Spencer’s head of waste and recycling.

Mandy Keepax told MRW it was “critical” that government worked more with local authorities.

She said “We have to get a more universal recycling set up to make recycling easier for the commercial market. That is absolutely critical because of the geographical barrier for processors and businesses that want to recycle more.”

Keepax was speaking after an announcement that the retail giant had achieved zero waste to landfill across its entire estate in the UK and Ireland, including stores, offices and warehouses.

The company, in its annual How We Do Business report, said it has reduced waste by 31% - 80,000 tonnes - since 2007, and now recycles 100% of waste under its Plan A project.

Keepax, told MRW the company had taken control of its distribution centres where it “backhauls” all its cardboard, plastics and food waste for sending on to processing and recycling.

“The other huge win for us has been engaging with processors” she added. “We now send 90% of our food waste to AD, and the remainder to other forms of energy recovery such as MBT composting. And now to really close the loop we are able to procure the energy back from those AD plants.”

Keepax said the firm was committed to ethical business because it was “the right thing” and because it was under scrutiny and pressure from staff and customers.

M&S head of Plan A delivery Adam Elman added: “Where we recycle we can often get a revenue back from that; so waste reduction and recycling make good business sense as well as being the right thing to do.”

Keepax said the company wants to increase its use of closed loops by sending more of its waste to be recycled into M&S products: the company’s plastic waste is currently recycled into carrier bags. The company also wants to help its suppliers and customers reduce and recycle: earlier this year it launched its “Schwopping” clothing recycling scheme (picture, above), and has sent three million unwanted garments to Oxfam this year.

Keepax said the waste management and recycling industries need to be “completely transparent with their processes and opening up their facilities and recycling processes so customers can see how they deal with waste and where the process leads to”.

“Before it was an industry with some hidden secrets, but we’ve pushed for opening up the door and auditing where our waste goes. And it’s opened our eyes up to dealing with the very best, environmentally and truly closed-loop reprocesssors.”

Bernard Amos, CEO at M&S’s waste partner Helistrat Management Services, added that the key for the waste industry and business was the “demystifying of waste” and demonstrating that waste is resource that if dealt with properly can bring brand value and revenue.

  • WRAP has given grants to seven waste collection contractors to enable a further 26,000 tonnes of food waste to be diverted from landfill by 2014. The collections will service a range of businesses in the hospitality and food service sectors such as restaurants, cafes, pubs and take-away restaurants.

Readers' comments (1)

  • 100% recycling – That is a powerful statement to make, one that I believe it remotely difficult to prove. I assume M&S must be classing EFW disposal as recycling; however according to the Waste Hierarchy EFW is certainly not recycling.
    One further point - Is it hygienic to return general waste and food waste to regional distribution centres in the same vehicles that deliver 'FRESH' food and clothing?

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