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RWM Preview: NRA retail: Welcome Break

The judges said: “This shows a big change within the time period and it is an excellent example of a strong solution to a difficult situation with staff buy-in.”


Welcome Break operates 36 motorway service stations in the UK and is the second largest motorway service area operator in the country. With 4,500 staff members and retail brands such as Waitrose, Starbucks, KFC and Burger King, implementing a new resource management scheme relies heavily on staff engagement.

Following a radical resource management overhaul, Welcome Break has achieved an almost 300% increase in recycling, with projections much higher. From a starting point in January 2013 of sending 100% to landfill, the company is now diverting almost 30% of this to recycling and anaerobic digestion, and is only at the beginning of the journey. Welcome Break, its managers and staff, are now completely committed both to the sustainable management of resources and engaging with the public on recycling issues.

In 2012, Welcome Break’s waste and recycling contractor Biffa analysed all the waste being generated across three trial sites. Together, the two companies identified how recycling could be optimised and realised that any new scheme would take a significant engagement effort with both staff and customers. In June and November 2013 the scheme was rolled out to all Welcome Break sites, and the projected increase in recycling is starting to bear fruit.

Welcome Break service stations host a variety of franchises including KFC, Starbucks and Burger King as well as its own restaurant Eat In. Today, each of the restaurants has a range of containers for the source-separation of dry mixed recycling, food waste, plastics and plastic bottles. Residual waste is also collected and treated where possible to produce refuse derived fuel.

Engaging with the staff, and accommodating the different cultures of these eateries required a major communications programme, headed up by Welcome Break’s operations support and project manager Natalie Baxter and Biffa contract manager Frankey Woodward. They delivered presentations to the staff across all of Welcome Break’s 36 sites to inform them of the scale of the waste problem and their role in helping improve the sustainability of Welcome Break sites. A huge culture change was needed, but by communicating with staff in an informative and approachable manner, this has been achieved. The team member presentations included an explanation that implementing the new system would cost the company roughly £3,500 per site, and so it was important that everyone pulled together to make it work. If successful, the scheme had the potential to save between £1,000 and £13,000 per site in year one, with increases in year two, and so the effort would be worth it. Recognising that Welcome Break would be providing a service to its customers that they may not have seen at a motorway service area before, it was important to ensure that staff could help advise customers on any questions regarding the recycling system. The main seating areas now have self-service and recycling areas, each with four different bins for the complete separation of waste. Customers are encouraged to clear their own tables and separate their waste into the following:
- Liquid - any leftover tea, coffee, fizzy pop (Plastic Tub)
- Food - food scraped from plates, unopened packaged food (Clear bin liner)
- Packaging (Dry Mixed Recycling) - this includes plastics, cardboard, cans, tin foil, cling film (Clear Bin Liner)
- General waste - this would include glass, sachets, tissues, blue roll, crisp packets, baby wipes, polystyrene, anything non-recyclable (black bin liner)

It was also important to Welcome Break that customers could recycle the rubbish they brought in from their vehicles via the bins at service station entrances. As a result, twin bins are now a common site across all entrances, main car parks and coach parks for:
- Packaging (Dry Mixed Recycling): plastic bottles, paper, tin cans.
- General Waste: tissue, cling film, sauce packs and anything non-recyclable.

Staff were trained in front- and back-of-house responsibilities to ensure the new recycling system was effective. At front-of-house, employees are expected to help customers understand the new recycling system. Staff are asked to approach customers politely, rather than waiting to be approached, and invite them to recycle their waste once they have finished their meals. In order to do this, it was important that staff were able to explain the process and show customers how it is done. Many of the staff employed at Welcome Break sites speak English as a second language, and so care was taken to ensure everyone understood both the system and how to explain it. Litter picking was also recognised as an important front-of-house issue, as it sets an example to Welcome Break customers. When litter-picking and clearing customer areas, staff are now trained to set an example by separating waste as they go, and to encourage customers to dispose of their waste correctly. In the back-of-house areas, staff are now also responsible for making sure waste is sorted correctly into the following:
- Packaging (Dry Mixed Recycling): Plastic Bottles, Tins, Cans, Paper, tin foil, cling film
- Food: Raw and Cooked foods
- General Waste: Polystyrene, sauce packets, glass and anything non-recyclable

In order to maintain this, Welcome Break has training managers visiting each of the sites on a continuous basis to deliver refresher training.

The scheme is projected to save Welcome Break £147,000 per year, and with full staff commitment to communicating with the public about recycling the benefits are expected to be much broader.

 

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