Canary Wharf Management (CWM) is an upper tier licensed carrier, broker and dealer, which has been zero waste to landfill for eight years. In 2017, the company managed about 8,100 tonnes of waste from five commercial buildings, five retail shopping centres and all external areas of the east London site. Its estate population is about 120,000 people.
It is in the middle of an ambitious growth programme on the estate to introduce up to 3,600 residential homes, with additional commercial and retail activities. This will obviously place a lot of pressure on the waste management operation, so it has been looking at how it can be slicker and more effective about how it manages waste.
Halfway through 2015 CWM changed waste services provider, having first carried out a survey of tenants to assess the waste they were producing and how they were managing it. The company concluded that the waste streams were not standardised: tenants used different bins to segregate different types of waste.
So CWM’s goal was to have tenants understand the same things and have the same infrastructure to carry out similar behaviours [as their neighbours]. That meant coming up with a standard waste management procedure that addressed the front-of-house – the tenant floors – for dry mixed recycling, residual waste and food waste. But it also looked at the back-of-house operation.
The company uses many cleaners, some of whom are contracted directly while others are subcontracted by the tenants. A consideration had to be given to the issue of high staff turnover within the cleaning industry. Such issues mean that CWM has struggled to get a consistent message to all such cleaning companies to do things the same way. So it had to have a lot more engagement with their head offices to ensure that its messages were filtered down.
It has found that the more efficient the back-of-house operation is, the better the front-of-house works. Its advantage is that people tend to buy, consume and dispose of resources on the estate and therefore there is a lot more that is within its power as a landlord to influence.
That has encouraged many innovative business tenants to reach out and trial new technologies and processes because, in effect, they have a closed environment in which to do so.
That is the basis of how CWM formed partnerships with the likes of Simply Cups and Bio Bean to create a ‘clean coffee zone’. The estate’s shopping areas now have bins that separate lids and sleeves from takeaway cups, which are taken away by Simply Cups and then converted into plastic cutlery and trays. The retail operation alone produces about 300 tonnes a year of waste coffee grounds, which are taken away by Bio Bean and turned into fuel logs, and they are also experimenting with alternative fuels.
The next step for CWM is to take a close look at single-use plastics. This has been driven by the Government and by policy, but also by its tenants, who are asking what it is doing to address the issue. For the company that is very new because, as a landlord, it normally prescribes what a tenant needs to do when it starts using a premises. But now tenants are seeking out the company and asking: “What are you going to do about this environmental issue?”
CWM is working with a company called Delphis Eco, an ecological cleaning business that has 100% post-consumer recycled HDPE packaging for its cleaning products. A CWM inventory found that its offices use about a quarter of a million milk bottles every year, so it is working with Delphis Eco to see how it can capture those bottles for reprocessing, and turned into something more durable and longterm. Its main challenge is to find out how such products can be returned to the estate for another life.
What the company really wants to do is bring the recycling message home to tenants, by showing them the consequences of their actions and that they must separate waste at source. All of this is, of course, underpinned by engaging tenants in the right way.
If you ever walk through Canary Wharf and the retail environment, everybody seems to have their heads down to their phones. That is probably the same for the whole of London – but the company wants to engage those people and its staff because that is the common denominator between people from different companies and different offices.
So CWM has run a number of campaigns on a quarterly and half yearly basis. One that launched the coffee cup recycling was called ‘Wake Up and Smell the Coffee’, where people were ‘hijacked’ on their route to and from the shopping areas to have the concept explained to them. The company has also been keen to feed back to people how it is doing on these initiatives, so it publishes figures on coffee cup and grounds recycling for them to see.
It also wants to ask people for new ideas, not just on waste management but wider sustainability issues. On the last World Environment Day on 5 June, it launched its ‘Live, Work, Connect’ campaign, which was a simple survey that asked people walking through the shopping areas for their biggest environmental issue: social justice, social inclusion, single-use plastics, food waste, nature and so on. The results were no surprise: for 60% of the 1,000 participants it was all to do with waste, 45% mentioned single-use plastics and 14% specified food waste.
“What the company really wants to do is bring the recycling message home to tenants, by showing them the consequences of their actions.”
This has told CWM that waste is a priority and it is also the biggest area where people feel they can make a difference. So this will drive the company’s efforts this year. It wants to devise a clear strategy, fuelled by the Government’s 25-year environment plan, which has single-use plastics and food high on the agenda. So the survey responses are consistent with what is coming out from policy.
The company is keen to talk to others about what it is doing, because it believes that finding and sharing best practice is key in terms of understanding what the potential is, along with feeding back its work to people.
- This is an edited version of a speech at a Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum keynote seminar.
Lugano Kapembwa is estate operations lead for energy and environment at Canary Wharf Management, part of Canary Wharf Group