Waste presents an amazing opportunity

Waste presents an amazing opportunity

02 May 2019

Retail is making decisions based on social responsibility and impact, and Waste is a key factor to consider.
By Michael Foreman, Managing Director, Don’t Waste UK

Sustainability is about the capacity to endure. In terms of the natural world, it’s about the continued capacity of the biosphere to sustain diverse (including human) biological life over time.
Environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist and author Paul Hawken wrote, “Sustainability is about stabilizing the currently disruptive relationship between earth’s two most complex systems—human culture and the living world”. Business of course is a major role player in terms of either contributing to or hindering this stabilisation process.

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” - The Brundtland Commission, United Nations, 1987.

CSR has always been about balancing the three P’s, Profits, Planet and People. Indeed if we cannot make profit or manage our businesses cost effectively, we cannot survive now and in the future. If we collectively run them without concern for the planet and people, we will not have a future.

Some key environmental concerns today.


The way we manage our waste is certainly a great example of how these aspects can be balanced and is a key factor worthy of management focus. Key to consider too is that management needs accurate, consistent and independent data to make informed decisions rather than “rubbish” data as highlighted by the Better Building’s Partnership Managing Agents Waste Working Group.
At Don’t Waste UK, we work with major shopping centres, owners and property management companies providing independent waste administration, reporting and management analytics to drive best and sustainable waste practise. Looking back over the last year, what really stands out for me is that most cost improvements we identified as part of our normal waste data and waste operations analytics, at various shopping centres, have been related to a corresponding improvement in environmental result – truly sustainable practise!

Some examples of this are:
A General Waste (GW) compacter is collected weekly on a fixed day every week. The average tonnage per lift is “light” at 5.4 tonnes. The collection is changed to “on demand” and the number of lifts per month is reduced to 3 per month versus on average 4.333 which = a 30% improvement in lift costs plus a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions via the reduced transportation.

A site has no Dry Mixed Recycling (DMR) grade, just General Waste (GW) and Cardboard. The introduction of the DMR grade sees disposal costs drop by 40% for the portion of GW directed to DMR. The DMR treatment output results in an improvement to recycling rates as the General Waste is directed 100% to energy recovery.

A compacter contents tip shows a high volume of Cardboard being deposited in GW compacters. A source separation campaign is run with tenants, which results in a 5% improvement in Card volumes for the on-site baling operation. Savings are previous lift and tonnage fees of General Waste reduced, additional rebates for the higher baled card, and an improvement to the sites recycling rate.

There are so many more examples of how improvements can be made when the goal is both economic and environmental. Our standard approach is to establish actual treatment outcomes for existing grades, benchmark waste cost per tonne, then containment and collection methodologies and costs/income, then recovery ratios of key grades, then alternate site treatments.
A bonus is that good waste practise impacts on a number of other environmental concerns as well.

If you dig a little you will certainly find diamonds in your waste…..