The retailer Tesco announced this week that it’s now diverting 100 per cent of the waste produced by its entire UK business away from landfill, a milestone reached almost a year ahead of the firm’s original target date.
Tesco attributed the achievement to a “massive logistical exercise in reducing, reusing and recycling, as well as seeking out the best providers of waste management services.”
Noting that methane gas from landfill sites is significantly more damaging to the environment than carbon emissions, Tesco three years ago committed to finding ways to divert all its waste from landfill by 2010. As of this week, the company’s entire estate of 2,315 UK stores — as well as distribution centres and offices — have achieved that goal.
While there are no official Government targets for commercial businesses, local authorities are being encouraged to reduce the waste they send to landfill by 45 per cent by 2020, compared to 2000 volumes.
“Climate change is the biggest challenge facing us today and businesses such as Tesco have a responsibility to provide leadership,” said Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Tesco’s executive director. “Tesco understands the value of developing new technology, which is why we helped launch the Sustainable Consumption Institute with a grant of £25 million last year. As well as research and development, improving our own operations and helping customers to make easy, green choices are the best way to combat climate change.”
New technologies such as innovative ways of turning waste into materials such as fuel and fertilizer have enabled Tesco to achieve its diversion target early with support from its waste services partner, Severnside Recycling.
Technology now enables waste to be managed with increased sophistication. The maximum amount of recyclable materials is recovered from the waste, reducing the carbon footprint of future product lifecycles. The alternative energy that waste can produce may allow the UK to depend less on fossil fuels in the future.
Among Tesco’s strategies for reducing waste:
- Reusing waste meat to generate fuel through a third-party plant which goes back into the national grid as electricity; at present, 5,000 tonnes of waste meat generate about 2,500 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity;
- Turning recycled carrier bags into refuse bags;
- Recycling used cardboard boxes to make new ones which are returned to stores with new products within 14 days; and
- Transforming waste from the south east of England into Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) through a third-party plant.