Centres of excellence

Envirowise went into the Arndale shopping centre and helped tenants identify cost savings through waste reduction. Environment Business looks at the results

Waste in the retail sector accounts for 4-10% of turnover, but low or no cost waste minimisation measures can reduce these by a quarter. This has led Envirowise and the BRC to set up a pilot programme targeting managed shopping centres.

The Prudential-owned Arndale Centre in Luton was the first to take part. Businesses were invited to a workshop where they were made aware of the savings implicit in reducing waste and energy use, and signed up to a waste audit carried out by consultant Gregor Pennie. The audit covered waste, energy and water, and businesses received a report setting out simple actions to reduce costs.

The Arndale Centre was chosen for the pilot for a number of reasons, including its age – the organisers felt there would be more opportunities to reduce energy and water use than in a state-of-the-art shopping centre. Also, according to Envirowise project manager Roger Papworth, each shop is individually metered for water and electricity, unlike many shopping centres where utilities are included as part of the lease, leaving little incentive for tenants to reduce usage.

Unfortunately initial take-up was low, with only six businesses taking part – four stores, an indoor market and the shopping centre itself. However, Papworth was pleased with the pilot: “It proved there is potential,” he says. Cost savings in excess of £52,000/year were identified and Papworth says participant response was extremely positive.

Low or no cost savings

Pennie set out the main areas where low or no cost savings are available. “Boots has started doing spot audits on their stores and they were finding problems like fridges left open overnight despite being fitted with shutters – even over the stores they visited it amounted to tens of thousands of pounds in avoidable energy costs,” he said.

Landfill and packaging regulations, and increases in energy costs are all impacting directly on retailers. “Tesco spends £8m/year on packaging taxes, but packaging is still increasing by 2-3%/year as it is seen as essential to sales,” according to Pennie.

He also put the case for reducing packaging at source, giving the example of a company that insisted it had no waste disposal costs, as all packaging was recycled. “But he had three guys out the back feeding a baler,” according to Pennie. “Now that is a £50,000/year cost.”

The manager of an electrical goods store taking part in the programme identified with this, especially as polystyrene packaging is a major component of his shop’s waste. “You put it in the bin and one of the lads has to get in and jump on it, then we’re forever cleaning up little bits of polystyrene from around the bins,” he said.

He was surprised to learn that manufacturers are giving away densifiers, offering an opportunity to cut skip use and reduce the staff time spent leaping around in skips and sweeping up snow-like particles in the alley behind the shop.

Next steps

By the end of the pilot, a number of key issues had been identified. Opportunities existed to recycle packaging, such as plastic, cardboard and paper waste for most of the Arndale businesses. Reducing water use was also seen as a priority.

Inefficient lighting could be replaced with energy efficient lamps or fluorescent tubes, and presence detectors in storerooms offer the opportunity to money immediately. “Lighting can account for 50% of energy costs,” Pennie says.

Envirowise will be returning to the Arndale Centre to monitor the success of the pilot scheme, and it has been deemed an overall success, with business procedures manager Paul Bentham saying the centre hopes to build on the initiative to “reduce waste and costs further for the benefit of the centre and its tenants”. Prudential plans to investigate extending the programme across its other UK managed shopping centres.

Papworth too is keen to take the project further, and will be working with the BRC to look at repeating the experience at other larger centres.

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