What makes a Sustainability Leader? Case study: JD Wetherspoon & DHL

With deadline day for entry to edie's 2015 Sustainability Leaders Awards fast approaching, we take a closer look at the collaboration between pub chain JD Wetherspoon and logistics firm DHL Supply Chain which took home last year's Waste & Resource Management award.

(L-R): Ecolateral’s Peter Jones; DHL Envirosolution’s Amanda Williams and Andrew Haynes; and compere Alistair McGowan

(L-R): Ecolateral’s Peter Jones; DHL Envirosolution’s Amanda Williams and Andrew Haynes; and compere Alistair McGowan

With an estate of more than 900 pubs, one of the greatest recycling challenges for JD Wetherspoon was logistics. However, a partnership with DHL delivered a reverse logistics solution that increased recycling rates, ensured zero waste to landfill, reduced carbon emissions and saved money.


Reverse logistics as a concept is not new, and on the surface, the system is a simple one. DHL delivers supplies to each pub and collects the waste they’ve generated at the same time. However, the scale of the operation is what made it so impressive.

Approximately 2,000 roll cages containing food, drink and other supplies are delivered to Wetherspoon pubs every day. Those roll cages are then filled with waste, which are collected by DHL and backhauled to the National Distribution Centre in Daventry for sorting and processing – some 1,600 of them every day. This scale, as well as the complexity of the scheme and its constant evolution, impressed the judges.

Twenty-nine waste streams are currently collected and recycled including cardboard, plastics, cooking oil, WEEE, milk bottles, aluminium and steel cans, wood, furniture, clothing and catering equipment. Tetra Pak was added last year and food waste at some sites, while contaminated plastics were added in 2015. General waste is also collected and any non-recyclable waste is sent to produce energy from waste, ensuring the chain sends zero waste to landfill.

The operation saw year-on-year growth in recycled waste from 5,426 tonnes in 2008 to 8,489 2014. And the mileage saved in collecting at the same time as delivering helped drive a carbon reduction of 24% per million cases delivered – 44 tonnes each year.

However, far from being a plug-in solution, the initiative is constantly being evolved and tailored to the business needs and specific waste outputs. Therefore, the focus for the future includes adding new waste streams, improving the capture of existing waste streams (currently only 125 sites separate out food waste) and improving efficiencies within the process.

For example, in July 2014, a bulk oil tank was installed to reduce cooking oil collections (oil which is then used to make biodiesel). The estimated effect of this was to drive revenue for JD Wetherspoon while reducing carbon emissions by a further 36 tonnes per annum.


Engagement and education were also key to the operation’s success. The JD Wetherspoon ‘recycling culture’, is designed to ensure waste and recycling form an integral part of the staff training and their ongoing role, with the message regularly reinforced by senior management to pub managers and all pub staff via the chain’s ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ and a ‘Waste and Recycling’ brief.

 The former includes step-by-step guides as to what can be recycled, from which areas of the business, including office, cellar, bar and kitchen, procedures for loading the rollcages and engagement tools such as posters to be clearly displayed in relevant areas.

Finally, transparency and cross-sector learning made this a stand-out project, as the initiative formed a best practice blueprint for other companies. Senior representatives from DHL Asia-Pacific and the Americas visited the Daventry site to learn how they could embed best practice in the workflow of their customers and replicate the success of the JD Wetherspoon project.

As one of the judges said, achieving the kind of recycle rates in the pub trade with such a large number of sites is some feat, and the project posed “interesting threats to the conventional business model of waste disposal operators”.

What the judges said...

"The idea of reverse logistics has been around for a number of years and it is gratifying that the delivery sector is at last realising the natural fit of this concept to their inbound delivery services. Coupled to their superiority in tracking data this will both reinforce customer loyalty and pose interesting threats to the conventional business model of waste disposal operators. Achieving the kind of recycle rates in the pub trade with such a large number of sites is some feat."

 Final submission deadline for the Sustainability Leaders Awards 2015 is Thursday, 23 July. 

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edie staff


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