Every little helps: Tesco edges closer to zero

Global retail giant Tesco is looking to take its zero carbon commitments one step further by adopting energy-from-waste as a renewable technology. Maxine Perella reports

Tesco has been working hard to reduce its carbon footprint over recent years with a firm commitment in place to halve emissions by 2020. On top of this, it is striving to become a zero carbon business by 2050.

Tesco's renewables programme manager Jake Ronay gave a well-attended talk at Birmingham's RWM show in September, in which he outlined the retailer's strategy to become more sustainable. Having made some early gains, particularly in waste diversion rates, the company is now actively looking at energy-from-waste as a way of improving its method of diversion and to provide a closed loop solution.

"Last year we achieved our target of 100% waste diversion from landfill in the UK a year ahead of schedule through stores and office recycling," he told delegates. "The main commitment driving our energy-from-waste strategy is our 2020 to reduce our carbon footprint.

"We want to halve emissions in our estate," he continued. "We're looking at energy efficiencies and low carbon for natural refrigeration, plus adopting renewable technologies of which energy-from-waste is one of them - it is becoming an increasingly important part of the prgramme."

Tesco's approach will be to move away from sending its waste to other companies to process, and instead collect the waste it generates from its stores and convert it into energy or fertiliser. Ronay said this would offer many benefits to the business, reducing haulage costs and thus carbon footprint, and also allowing the company to have more control over the whole waste management process.

Opportunity knocks
"There is an opportunity to process consolidated waste from our stores at our distribution centres," Ronay pointed out, while adding that there was also the challenge of dealing with waste arisings from the smaller stores where logistics don't allow for backhauling to these centres.

Talking about the key considerations the company faces in selecting the right recovery technology for its business, Ronay said it was mixed waste -food and packaging - that accounted for some 150,000tpa and needed to be dealt with in the right way. "The greatest challenge is food that arrives packaged and never makes it onto the shelves."

He added that "no one technology fits all our needs" and said that size (whether on-site is the best option), haulage costs and logistics, and timing all played a critical part.

"What energy-from-waste technologies are genuinely proven and ready to work on a commercial scale?" he asked delegates. Government policy, particularly the forthcoming renewable heat incentive, was cited as another key factor along with mapping out the future profile of the company's waste streams. While Ronay admitted that Tesco wasn't "quite as far down the road as we'd like to be" in selecting the right energy-from-waste
technologies for its business needs, he was hopeful that the company would be delivering treatment plant within the next two to three years.

Maxine Perella is editor of LAWR

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