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RWM Preview: NRA retail: Bluewater

The judges said: “This is an exciting initiative with big ambitions and a company always looking to do more. There is a comprehensive range of waste streams and a good recycling rate. It would have benefitted from more evidence of senior management buy-in and communication with the public.”

Bluewater shopping centre in Kent has 330 stores and over 55 bars, restaurants and cafes, attracting 28.1 million visitors each year. It achieved zero waste to landfill in 2009, as a result of its partnership between its owners Lend Lease and Veolia Environmental Services (VES). This has seen the shopping centre achieve 90% recycling and 10% energy recovery, and landfill diversion fall from 45% to zero in five years.

In 2013, waste from its retailers and site operations accounted for 83% of all its waste generated, while the remaining 17% was shopfit waste.

Bluewater reports on 54 separate waste streams, including road sweepings. But based on its previous waste model, the shopping centre’s recycling rate would stagnate at 90%. To achieve a higher level of recycling, it needed a new waste management model.  So in 2013, a new contract was signed between Land Lease/Bluewater and VES. This commits to achieving 99% recycling for all its waste by 2016 and contractually obliges VES to challenge the status quo and strive for improved waste management.

Staged targets were agreed between both parties, building up to the 99% recycling rate by 2016.

Previously, Bluewater had three main waste streams: general waste, cardboard and glass. Each was collected by a dedicated vehicle and operative, with glass collected by a sub-contractor working on behalf of VES. The new contract saw a third vehicle introduced to collect mixed recycling as a separate waste stream.

Its general waste stream became ‘food and wrappings’ while cardboard remained a direct-to-mill waste stream. To achieve the 99% recycling rate, it needs to remove all pure food from its ‘food and wrappings’ stream by 2015.

Since June 2013, ‘food and wrappings’ has been collected as a separate waste stream. VES can handle the full range of liquid and dry waste and provide specialist services to meet retailer requirements at Bluewater. But to achieve its target recycling rate, a step change is required from retailers. A number of retailer initiatives have been put in place to help with this, including VES: visiting and discussing segregation with at least 30 retailers a month, providing and displaying colour-coded posters on each exit to the service yard, and providing recycling data for retailers’ head offices if required.  

Bluewater provides regular retailer newsletters promoting recycling, and its retailers are fully engaged with its waste initiatives. For example, most of the larger fashion outlets return boxes of garment hangers to their suppliers for reuse and the restaurants appreciate the need to segregate food waste.

But there is some resistance due to space limitations within units for additional containers. A trial scheme to address this is due to take place in the future.

Initiatives introduced in 2013 to further drive recycling included: a specialist service for shop refit and construction waste, a recycling induction given to all new retailers, potential service improvements discussed at regular retailer group meetings, free retailer collections for Used Cooking Oil, a battery and used printer cartridge collection service, WEEE collection stream, and a local ‘dirty MRF’ for the ‘food and wrappings’ stream. This sees around 70-75% of otherwise lost recyclates extracted both mechanically and manually. Future projects to remove more food from this waste stream should see this percentage greatly improve.

Data so far shows that the shopping centre is on track to increase its recycling rate from 90% to 92% - achieved through all involved actively driving recycling performance.

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