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Not just waste management….

29 June 2012

Helistrat's Helpdesk at M&S

PFM Award winners in the ‘Partners in Corporate Social Responsibility’ for 2011 were Marks and Spencer and Helistrat Management Services for their waste management programme

M&S launched Plan A in January 2007 with the intention of working with customers and suppliers to combat climate change, reduce waste, use sustainable raw materials, trade ethically, and help our customers to lead healthier lifestyles. Initially there were 100 commitments to achieve in five years, but this has been extended to 180 commitments bu 2015. The ultimate goal is to become the world’s most sustainable retailer.

Among the Plan A commitments were specific sustainability objectives to divert all operational and food waste from landfill by 2012. More specifically these commitments included:

13.5. No operational waste to landfill - Aiming to ensure that M&S operations in the UK and Republic of Ireland (stores, offices and warehouses) will send no waste to landfill by 2012

13.7. Food waste (alternative disposal) - Sending all remaining food waste to some form of recycling including composting and anaerobic digestion by 2012

M&S was the first retailer to set out its environmental ambitions and, in order to achieve its targets, new and innovative processes and recycling solutions had to be introduced.

The Solution
M&S appointed a specialist FM Services Management company, Helistrat Management Services Ltd, to assist and manage the delivery of innovative and sustainable processes to remove the need to landfill its waste.

Back in 2009 cumulative recycling stood at 53.2%. Desktop recyclers were in place for employees to use, but these were ineffective in separating waste types and caused persistent pest issues. Also food waste was being collected from each store, spoilt to prevent onward consumption, and subsequently sent to landfill or rendered.

To turn this around a number of key changes were identified and acted upon:

? New waste management processes were introduced across 492 stores
? Innovative and recyclable receptacles were introduced to take food waste direct from the shelf
? Existing logistics processes were set up to back-haul all waste to distribution centres.
? Recycling solutions were put in place for all materials
? In-depth company-wide education programme accelerated roll out
? 9 months ahead of Plan A targets at a store level
? Waste management costs for M&S were reduced

As a consequence of these actions 52,700 tonnes of food, cardboard, plastics and paper was diverted from landfill in the 11 months (to mid 2011 when the PFM Awards entry was submitted). Waste collections were reduced from 492 stores to 22 distribution centres, resulting in a reduction of the M&S carbon footprint. An estimated full year reduction of 22,000 tonnes of waste took place in 2010. The cumulative rate of recycling to the end of February 2011 had reached 93%, and the was, and still is, 100% in 2012

The project was assessed largely over its performance in 2010/11 and there were a number of notable achievements in this period. Food waste, for example, is being converted into renewable energy, and food waste itself is reduced by the introduction of the sale of food in the last day of shelf life at a discounted price to customers. There were also a number of initiatives regarding use of materials across this period. Customers were encouraged to adjust the way they used plastic bags with the introduction of a 5p food carrier bag charge with profits donated to Groundwork to help fund parks, gardens and play areas. Packaging was reviewed across the business, reduced and revised to use more sustainable raw materials making it more recyclable and converted into new packaging also used by M&S. The range of clothes hanger designs was simplified resulting in higher levels of reuse as well as having recycling schemes for Christmas cards, batteries and small electrical products

Helistrat has helped M&S take other steps along the journey have included the installation of Confidential Waste and Mixed Dry Recycling bins into head office, replacing the inefficient desktop recyclers. Also, more than 600,000 KiloWattHours of energy has been produced, which is put back into the National Grid, and the M&S carbon footprint has subsequently been reduced by 700 Co2/PT.

Such achievements have come about by developing a structured programme to tackle the core issues. For example, in the quest to increase recycling, Helistrat and M&S conducted a waste audit to identify what, how, why and where waste was generated, and had to streamline and develop recycling processes within a given budget. Back-hauling of all waste to distribution centres was introduced, while innovative shop-floor-ready corrugated waste units were introduced for food waste. They also appointed service providers to recycle waste streams into renewable energy, and plastics were segregated at store level to enable more cost effective and environmentally friendly recycling routes to be maximised.

Education, Education, Education

A fundamental element to the success of the new process was going to be the buy-in from M&S staff. Therefore, a thorough education programme was developed to engage over 60,000 employees.

This included preparing: A variety of training materials, leaflets and posters; A DVD to explain new processes; Materials to enable waste to be back-hauled; Store by store briefings to introduce and explain the new processes; and Conferences with regional teams to combat any issues

With such detailed training, employees, from board level to store, were positive about the new processes as they improved existing procedures. For example, food waste can now be disposed of directly from the shelf – replacing the dreaded job of having to split all packaging and cover it in blue dye to stop pilfering from bins. This attitude enabled the roll out to be accelerated by six months. 

Closing the loop

Looking to close the loop is a key part of the partnership’s strategy. Back-hauling waste has reduced the running of empty M&S vehicles, while reducing store by store waste collections. Not only does this save cost, it also has a significant impact on reducing C02 emissions.

Meanwhile, mixed dry recyclate is sorted at MRF facilities by identified third party specialists to recycle the separated material.

Great emphasis has been placed on helping to maximise the sustainability for all M&S operations and a lot of time and emphasis has been placed on developing relationships with suppliers to enable M&S to reuse its own waste through its procurement processes.

All M&S food waste, not only from stores but also its restaurants and cafes will be sent to anaerobic digestion to the closest processing facility. This approach will generate around 6,000,000 KWh of renewable energy by 2012, which will be sold back to the National Grid.

Continuing to Sustain and Develop

The project continues to develop as M&S and Helistrat are developing solutions to ensure positive buy-in from staff, such as reducing the need for the separation of food scraps from date expired food and food with quality issues. There are streamlined recycling processes for staff and recycling training is incorporated as part of induction for all new members of staff in stores. The team remains dedicated to finding alternative disposal solutions for all waste streams and intend to move forward and focus on minimising waste creation. With the knowledge gained from the waste audit into how, where and why M&S generates waste, Helistrat is providing further support into minimising waste produced and really meeting that waste hierarchy at all levels – reduce, reuse and recycle

Mandy Keepax – Head of Facilities at Marks and Spencer: “Our new waste management operation has helped us make significant progress on Plan A. As a result, we’re now diverting more waste from landfill than ever before while also generating renewable energy. Meanwhile, reduced waste collection by using our regional distribution centres means we’re making significant CO2 savings as well. We’re looking forward to the next phase, when we’ll be able to send the food waste from our hospitality units and restaurants to more positive use. The implementation of the new scheme, has surpassed our expectations and made the waste management process at each store much simpler, efficient and more importantly sustainable.”

The judges said: This was an impressive partnership delivering on all counts with an impressive recycling and waste reduction results.

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