DIY retailers start to shrink packaging and waste

The big DIY chains are getting their houses in order when it comes to reducing packaging and improving waste management processes. Maxine Perella gives a progress report

The Home Improvement Sector Commitment was launched in conjunction with the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in September 2009 to improve the resource efficiency of home improvement products throughout the UK by reducing packaging and waste in the sector.

Signatories to the commitment - including Argos, B&Q, Crown Paints, Focus DIY, Henkel, Homebase, ICI Paints, Akzo Nobel and Wickes - represent almost half of the total UK DIY retail sales. Through the commitment, the signatories are working together to:

· Reduce packaging by 15% by the end of 2012
· Reduce waste to landfill from their operations by 50% by the end of 2012
· Help consumers to recycle more

What follows is a summary of individual progress reports by some of the signatories involved.

B&Q
B&Q has optimised packaging designs throughout its ranges of bathroom accessories and kitchen taps. This has reduced cardboard usage and improved distribution efficiency with the smaller packs.

The changes have resulted in various reductions in cardboard packaging - 50,000 tonnes for bathroom accessories and 140 tonnes for kitchen taps. In addition, £500,000 has been saved per year in material, freight and handling costs.

Following successful trials, B&Q has also extended its usage of reusable packaging for delivery of bulky products to customers' homes. This has led to annual cost savings of £80,000, reduced waste going to landfill and avoided 453 tonnes of cardboard packaging going to waste each year.

On the recycling front, the company has worked to increase its recycling rates from stores. Since 2007, waste sent to landfill has fallen by 73% (37,000 tonnes per annum) and the proportion of waste recycled has grown from 47% to 82%.

This has been achieved by moving general waste skips from the back of most of its stores and replacing them with a segregated waste solution. B&Q anticipates reaching its corporate target for 90% recycling by the end of 2012.

Home Retail Group (Argos and Homebase)
Home Retail Group has implemented a reusable packaging system called 'sofa bag' for the distribution and home delivery of upholstered furrniture. Each piece of reusable packaging is expected to be used on average at least 10 times.

Benefits of this system have resulted in 1,800 fewer tonnes of single-use packaging each year, fewer customer returns and no waste for customers to dispose of. In addition, at the end of its life the 'sofa bag' is sent to a plastics reprocessor for recycling.

The company has continued to reduce waste sent to landfill and to increase what is recycled. Since the baseline year for this agreement, waste sent to landfill has reduced by 79% - almost 28,000 tonnes per annum - and the proportion of all waste produced sent for recycling has grown from 53% of all waste to 87%.

Consumer-facing initiatives are also underway and Home Retail Group has introduced a packaging takeback and recycling scheme for home deliveries of bulky kitchen appliances. In 2009, 40% of customers made use of this service.

In August 2011, Argos rolled out a bed recycling scheme in conjunction with Silentnight Beds. Under this initiative, which began trials with online orders in 2010, Argos will remove a customer's old bed for a £30 charge when delivering their new one.

Travis Perkins Group (Wickes)
The company is committed to reducing the amount of waste produced by its business activities and to increasing recycling and recovery rates. Since 2007, Wickes has reduced waste to landfill by 69% (over 12,000 tonnes).

This was achieved via a combination of waste management solutions including the implementation of a new waste management contract, phased removal of large open skips and replacing them with smaller wheeled bins, and backhauling segregated materials from stores to distribution centres for bulking up and recycling.

This includes plastic wrapping, cardboard packaging, and a growing number of other materials such as used customer bulk bags, plastic banding, office papers, old brochures and catalogues, pallets and scrap timber.

Maxine Perella is editor of edieWaste

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