Tesco sets store by simple recycling drive

Keeping it simple is at the heart of Tesco's waste management approach - illustrated by its new recycling units that sort and separate so customers don't have to. Maxine Perella reports

Tesco is hoping to work with local authorities as it prepares to roll out an ambitious front-of-store recycling programme over the coming months.

The supermarket plans to install 100 automated recycling banks in four key regions across the UK – the Midlands, the south of England, London and the home counties, and the M62 corridor. The company has already invested £800,000 in automated recycling units over the past two years, installing units in Winchester, Havant, Portsmouth and Southampton.

Speaking about the location of the new units, Andrew Duckworth, senior buying manager at Tesco, said: “Our primary goal is to make sure we have a dense geography for economic and efficient logistics, plus a recycling network close by to support our units.”

The automated units will be able to sort and separate and can take a variety of materials including paper, coloured glass, tins, cans and plastics. Duckwork emphasised that he was “very keen to get council support for the project” and believed there were good “partnership opportunities for communication”.

This latest front-of-store recycling programme builds on Tesco’s drive to carefully manage its waste as it undergoes continual expansion. New Tesco stores are being opened at a rate of 100 a year and with some 1,400 stores currently in the UK, around 400,000 tonnes of waste is generated across the business each year.

“We need to manage our waste very carefully, especially in the current climate with rising costs of waste,” said Duckworth. However, although the company’s waste costs are rising, he reported that recycling revenue is also on the up. “We currently recycle around 71% of our waste – we are doing fairly well.”

Tesco has developed a five-year waste management strategy which has an integrated approach at its core, looking at “recycling and waste as one joint effort” according to Duckworth. Four pillars underpin the strategy – service capability, simplicity, effective management of cost and revenue, and innovation.

Engaging staff

So how do you drill this philosophy into 250,000 staff who work across the supermarket’s stores? “If you don’t make it simple, [staff] won’t do it,” said Duckworth, adding that a system had to be created which has minimal segregation, and one that builds on existing processes which staff are familiar with.

Training and information is paramount to this, and all stores are audited to identify any problems at an early stage so that they can be dealt with effectively. Duckworth also spoke of the importance of a good waste management contractor, one that provides dedicated support across the business.

“You need confidence in the contractor, and that they take ownership of the budget.”

On the subject of cost and revenue, Duckworth said agreed performance targets and budgets needed to be set. He also talked of installing a sense of competitiveness across the company.

“We publish league tables to see how stores are performing against each other,” he said.

Andrew Duckworth was speaking at a recent London Remade local authority networking event in London

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