John Lewis measures up pros of pay-as-you-throw

The John Lewis Partnership is exploring a pay-by-weight model for its waste collection activities in a bid to gather more accurate data that will inform its sustainability strategy

Whilst virtually everything else in the world of waste management has changed over the past decade, the payment model used for the collection of commercial waste has hardly altered at all. So, unlike most of Europe, which has moved over to a ‘pay as you throw’ model, the UK has been resistant to change from the established ‘flat rate per bin’ payment method.

However, there are now a growing number of waste management companies who see a number of distinct advantages to a more variable approach to pricing which, in turn, are encouraging waste producers to rethink their business model. One such company is the John Lewis Partnership, who is already exploring how, with the help of one of its waste contractors, Simply Waste Solutions, to turn this from concept into a reality.

According to John Lewis’ waste & water resource manager Mike Walters, this could be the catalyst to help the company further reduce the amount of waste it produces whilst achieving greater levels of recycling. “There would then be a clear incentive for us to throw less and, if we become even more mindful of what we put in our bins, we could even reduce our overall operational costs,” he notes.

Pay as you throw (PAYT) has become a practical reality in an increasing number of countries in Europe, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Finland, in both the residential and commercial sectors. The UK, on the other hand, has received no such legislative driver and, until recently, had little demand for PAYT from the waste industry itself. But this situation may well change, given the numerous benefits that a variable pricing model brings including a completely transparent insight into the amount of waste being collected.

What is now required, however, are progressive waste management companies who have the foresight to see the mutual benefits that this radical pricing mechanism can offer its customers, along with the investment in infrastructure and technology required to make it possible. Simply Waste Solutions is now in dialogue with a number of its clients, including John Lewis, to explore ways in which a PAYT could be implemented.

Many businesses today are under more scrutiny from their customers, suppliers, partners and employees who are all keen to know what waste policy is in place, what targets have been set and whether they are being hit. Many, particularly in the retailing sector, have gone even further by identifying a rewarding behaviour from their stakeholders that will help them achieve their own waste targets.

John Lewis, for example, has already achieved a 75% recycling rate and is on target to divert 95% of its operational waste from landfill by the end of this year. It also runs its own awards programme to celebate supplier initiatives to enhance the sustainability of their businesses.

The retailer is now actively exploring ways with its suppliers to help it increase recycling rates and even achieve zero to landfill. Over the past three years, Simply Waste has been working closely with the company to help it achieve its waste targets and provide robust management data in the process.

“As soon as you can start measuring waste you can then begin to influence and reduce it,” Walters maintains, explaining that the data not only informs him of how much waste is being collected from John Lewis stores, but also what happens to it thereafter, broken down by the amount of recyclates and even the amount of CO2 saved by diverting it away from landfill.

The growing demand for even greater levels of management data from its customers has now prompted Simply Waste to invest in new systems and technology that will provide more transparency to those clients wanting to reach the next level of waste reduction. In August of this year, Simply Waste and MOBA Mobile Automation teamed up to introduce an on-board weighing and bin identification solution onto its commercial waste vehicles.

Using this technology will enable the fleets that serve John Lewis and other businesses to deliver highly accurate weighing measurements together with immunity from interference and electronic signal processing. This technology claims to be superior to conventional strain gauge load cells as it not only delivers improved weighing accuracy but, significantly, also means the bin lifter no longer needs to be operated at a slow speed in order to achieve a stable weighing signal.

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