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Solid Waste: Reduce
The 'Three R' Hierarchy: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Reduce is the first "r' in the 'Three R' hierarchy, simply because it is better not to produce something than to reuse or recycle it. Source reduction strategies reduce the amount of materials that are otherwise thrown away or recycled. Source reduction also lessens the costs of transporting, throwing away or recycling waste. It can also reduce labour costs without any need for upfront investment.
Breadth of Practice
A good starting place for reducing waste is to perform a life cycle assessment, such as the packaging review that is described in one of the case studies in our Greening Retail best practices eatabase. The database contains 11 cases that describe waste reduction initiatives. In four of the case studies, retailers have completely eliminated packaging for individual items, and in another four, the weight of packaging has been reduced. In two of the case studies, retailers educated their suppliers about packaging reduction or rated them on their packaging use, with the aim of reducing packaging throughout the supply chain.
The following table summarizes the types of practices found in the Greening Retail best practice database that pertain to solid waste reduction and includes the number of companies for which this practice is described in the database.
Life Cycle Assessment Packaging Review:
In the US, containers and packaging make up 31 percent of the solid waste stream. "Waste is a missed opportunity for environment and economic benefits," said Tom Huetteman, associate director of the U.S. EPA waste division.
Marks & Spencer has carried out a series of Life Cycle Assessments (LCA's) as part of a packaging review. They compared loose apples vs. four-packs of packaged fruit. They say that the two methods had a very similar overall impact due to higher levels of wastage in loose varieties. However, loose packaging created the least non-biodegradable waste. They say that point of sale packaging does not necessarily reflect overall energy and waste implications.
Target stores changed the specifications for vendor packaging to eliminate individual item packaging and to reduce the quantity of excess pins, clips, bags, paperboard inserts, tape, and tissue paper. Instituting a "floor ready" policy, they asked suppliers to sign a letter of agreement under which Target could fine the vendors if merchandise did not arrive packaged according to specifications. (Florida Communities Center).
Target Stores calculates all of their source reduction and recycling in terms of savings per unit of sales. They also determine the labour and capital savings related to purchasing, storing and handling. Target has achieved an 80 per cent trashless packaging level in softgoods. 75 per cent reduction in waste and related disposal costs, estimated $4.5 million in labour costs without any need for upfront investment
Tesco.com, is starting to offer the option of a bag-free delivery, in response to customer concerns about the number of bags used for home shopping. Customers who select the "delivery without bags" option will have their products delivered in stackable green trays direct to their kitchens. Customers who choose this option will also receive Green Clubcard points.
Based on the number of articles sold, C&A has continually reduced the quantity of packaging materials in recent years. They rely less often on individual packaging for their products, if not necessary for the protection of the goods.
Packaging Weight Reduction
ASDA instant coffee glass jars were reduced in weight by around 25 per cent. For their ready meals, full cardboard sleeves were replaced with watchstrap design or removed completely, resulting in 32 per cent less cardboard. The gauge of plastic used on salad bags was reduced by a third. Lightweight glass on wine bottles are used: 300 tonnes of glass will be removed each year. The £10million saved as a result of this programme will be passed back to their customers.
Colruyt modified the packing of the Graindor coffee in several stages. In 1999, the thickness of the Graindor boxes was reduced from 0,28 mm to 0,22 mm, which means a reduction of more than 21 per cent or one saving in 50 tons of metal per annum. In addition, the weight of the plastic lid also decreased by 31 per cent changing 9,3 G to 6,4 G. In a subsequent phase, the box opening system was changed, making it possible to save 10 tons of metal per annum. Then, the height of the cardboard trays, in which the boxes are packed, was reduced from 7,5 cm to 5 cm, which translate to a reduction of 33 per cent. Following these various measurements, Colruyt saves approximately 60 tons of metal each year, 1 ton of cardboard and 10,8 tons of plastic.
Crate & Barrel recently won a green award as a direct result of packaging optimization. In Crate & Barrel's case, there were many ancillary benefits to this project. However, the main driver was that by re-engineering its shipped cases, the company could reduce corrugate usage by more than 10 million square feet per year.
Wal-Mart has made changes to some of its packaging that has cut down on waste, shipping costs and shelf space. A one-inch reduction in height and width in one line of private label toys has reduced cardboard use by 3,450 tons and plastic by 600 tons.
Packaging of Suppliers
At Boots, suppliers attended a series of three free workshops - on packaging, efficient use of resources and energy management. By reducing excess packaging, reducing waste, converting waste into energy pellets and recycling programmes, the total savings identified were £1.9 million, including Boots' suppliers'savings of £250,000.
Companies supplying products to Wal-Mart will have to fill out a complex survey about the ecological impact and recycled content of their packaging. The company has informed their suppliers about thier "packaging scorecard".
This synopsis was compiled from case studies in the Greening Retail Best Practice Database. Sources for the information in the case studies are cited in the database.
This database contains links to case studies of environmental best practice from retailers around the world. You can search this database by the name of the company only, or you can find case studies that match one or several specific criteria, such as the type of retailer, the type of best practice, the company's country of origin, and/or project return on investment.
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Please note that we cannot include all the practices of every retailer; therefore, the non-inclusion of a company, or of a certain area of practice for a company, does not mean that they do not presently have progressive environmental initiatives in these areas.
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