WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff

Controlling waste produced by shopping centres at christmas


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Approximately 6000 tonnes of waste will be produced by the UK’s 5 newest shopping centres over the Christmas shopping season – enough to fill 2.4 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Research published by WSP Environment & Energy, using average shopping centre waste, predicts that the major new shopping centre openings in the UK will produce in total over 5,978 tonnes of waste over the Christmas period (November to January). This is enough to fill 2.4 Olympic sized swimming pools or the equivalent weight of 200 million coat hangers. At WSP we have developed a checklist of ways that shopping centres can reduce the amount
of waste produced and the amount sent to landfill, in order to avoid onerous costs. Given the current economic climate this will benefit both the environment and retailers’ balance sheets through reduced service charges for waste disposal.

Waste arrives in shopping centres from a number of sources including packaging from deliveries, packaging on products, waste from food outlets, and general rubbish brought in by consumers. With the increased costs for landfill tax, set to rise to £48 per tonne in 2010, and rising waste management costs it is imperative that shopping centres divert their waste to avoid landfill rates and cut costs. Our research predicts that at current rates, if all the waste from the 5 new shopping centres was sent to landfill, it is estimated they would notch up £190,000 worth of landfill tax.

Emma Bollan, Associate Director of WSP, suggests a number of top tips to reduce the amount of waste arriving at shopping centres, lower waste management costs and minimise waste sent to landfill:

  • Contact suppliers in order to reduce transient packaging for products/stock.
  • Implement ‘take back schemes’ whereby suppliers delivering goods pick-up their packaging to simplify waste collection and recycling.
  • Clearly define a strategy for recycling and segregating materials.
  • Consult and communicate with staff to ensure the system for recycling is compatible with employee behaviour, and is easy and time sensitive in the frenetic trading period.
  • Monitor waste figures to determine rate of success and savings achieved, and ensure that service level agreements are strongly negotiated with waste contractors.

Emma comments: “The Christmas season is an enormously busy time for shopping centres and retailers. Whilst they are clearly keen to maximise returns, it is vital that they do not forget that they will be producing more waste than at any other time in the year. Whilst shopping centres and retailers have made good strides forwards in
reducing waste, they need to develop and maintain a clear and consistent strategy throughout this – one of their busiest periods.”

Emma continues: “There are a number of strategies that can be undertaken to reduce waste and avoid sending it to landfill, however the best solution is one that is integrated into the day to day operation. It is essential that these systems do not prevent retailers from operating efficiently in what is a critical period in their year. By taking into account these strategies we predict that the new openings could save 717.3 tonnes of recyclable plastic, which if saved from landfill would be equivalent to 89 million carrier bags. Centres and retailers cannot put their heads in the sand on this issue, and the most savvy will make the connection that this is valuable for their economic health.”

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