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Waste Not Want Not: Boosting Retail Profits Through Waste

Waste is becoming a bigger issue than ever for retailers. Legislation is further reaching and the pressure is on to keep your business environmentally responsible, as well as profitable.

However, the two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

Often sustainability is associated with expense, but this does not have to be the case. In fact many retailers have found that by improving their waste practices, they have actually managed to boost profits, as well as public opinion.

commercial waste fines

Sustainability Successes In Retail

Marks and Spencer have reported significant financial benefits as a result of their environmentally conscious efforts. This was a surprise to company bosses, since when the Plan A sustainability programme launched in 2007, it was reported that it would cost more than £200m by 2012. However, after five years the initiative had actually generated £105m.

M&S’ initial areas of focus were:

  • Becoming carbon neutral in the UK and Ireland.
  • Achieving zero waste to landfill status. This meant that waste was first reduced at source and then was was produced in stores, offices, warehouses and from construction activity was recycled to the point where none went to landfill.
  • Improving fuel efficiency of its food delivery fleet by 28% and its general merchandise delivery feet by 30%.

Ikea have also achieved zero waste to landfill and even more impressive, the global chain now turns a small profit from their waste, with recycled materials forming parts of its best-selling products.

Clements Coffee Belfast achieve zero waste to landfill with ISL Waste Management

Nigel Roddy of Clements Coffee (left) with ISL’s Joe McCrystal (right)

Sustainability For The Smaller Business

Success isn’t limited to larger businesses. We worked with Clements Cafes last year and within one month the company achieved zero waste to landfill and an impressive 300% reduction in waste management costs through improved efficiencies.

After running a waste audit with Mourne Seafood in Belfast and helping them improve on our waste segregation, the business saved around £5,000 annually.

10 Ways Retailers can Manage Waste:

1. Develop an environmental policy, outlining your aims and principles in relation to managing the environmental effects and aspects of operations.

2. Separate your waste materials, particularly cardboard and polythene, and ensure as much as possible is sent for recycling.

3. Place recycling bins inside your store, in staff areas, or outside near the entrance to give customers and employees the opportunity to throw their waste into a recycling can instead of a general bin.

4. Use, purchase, and promote products that are made with recycled materials. Environmentally-conscious customers will appreciate having a green alternative on offer.

5. If your business produces a lot of cardboard waste, it may be worth investing in a cardboard baler for your stockroom so your easily bale your own cardboard or other recyclables. This way it can be efficiently stored until it is picked up by your waste management company.

6. Cut down on excessive packaging for customers. Ask before wrapping or bagging items. Where possible, reuse packaging materials such as bubble wrap, boxes and paper.

7. Donate suitable waste to other businesses, charities and food banks. Last year we worked with SOS NI to divert £500,000 of quality food, marked for destruction, to local organisations.

8. Influence customer habits, by offering incentives. Offer a discount if they use a reusable cup or bag, or return coffee trays etc to store for disposal. Encourage new purchases with a trade-in of old products that can be recycled, reused, or donated.

9. Collate your waste with other local businesses to build up volumes and possibly reduce the cost of collections if you are a smaller retailer.

10. Train staff in environmental policies and make it easy for them achieve compliance. Make the best use of communications to get resource efficiency messages across.

ISL Waste Management understand the pressures that our retail clients face and work in partnership with you to cut costs, increase efficiencies and protect your profit margin.

If you would like more information on our services, or advice on waste and recycling, please contact 028 9084 4445, or