Indicator 1.3

Issue: Waste

Indicator: Waste management and minimisation

Why is this important?

The UK produces over 78 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste each year. Perhaps 60% of this waste ends up in the UK's diminishing number of landfill sites. Some 40% is recycled although this does include material recovery for energy generation rather than re-use - i.e. destructive technologies. As noted earlier, the linear nature of our production and consumption systems is inherently unsustainable. We simply cannot carry on indefinitely, on a finite planet, taking materials out of the ground, processing and or manufacturing them only for them to be used, perhaps just once, before throwing them away. This represents an inefficient use of resources and is now beginning to overwhelm us as we run out of holes in the ground to bury it. Producing more from less - ie eco-efficiency - is at the heart of many corporate environmental strategies. This requires accurate measurement and recording of all waste flows.

As noted in the DETR Environmental Reporting Guidelines for Company Reporting on Waste, most companies should already be aware of the wastes they produce and where they go. The Environment Protection Act 1990 places a Duty of Care on anyone who produces commercial or industrial waste. This means that all companies must secure their waste and can only transfer it to an authorised person with a transfer note. This implies waste records and recording should be good, or of a standard, even if this data is not being publicly reported. With the Packaging Regulations, Landfill Directive and likelihood of further legislation around the areas of Producer Responsibility and Integrated Product Policy, companies are going to have to develop comprehensive strategies and policies for managing and reducing all of their waste flows. They will have no choice, and the DETR/DEFRA Guidelines have been produced to help them achieve this. Several innovative waste minimisation initiatives already being implemented by several supermarkets are included in the Guidelines. These include examples from Safeway (donation of fresh food waste 370t/year) and Marks and Spencer (recovery for re-use of IT equipment and use of recycled materials in packaging).

How will this indicator be measured?

The bullet points below detail the standard information that we would like to obtain through questionnaires from each supermarket. Where there are gaps or areas where data is based on estimations rather than actual recordings, thought will need to be given as to how systems can be developed to ensure more complete and accurate data is recorded in future years. It may be necessary, for example, to ask third party contractors for some of the information. Sainsbury's, for example, started by estimating waste figures based on a sample survey of stores (22% of them). Data is now provided by their waste contractors as part of their disposal contract.

  1. All in-store and head office waste streams – total financial cost of waste sent to landfill, stores participating in food composting schemes or food recovery initiatives.
  2. Setting and achieving waste targets
  3. Post consumer waste – companies will be asked a series of questions about various initiatives they may be involved in to reduce post consumer waste

For all absolute figures - i.e. total tonnage - these totals will be normalised by turnover before comparing/benchmarking performance. In future years it would be good to look at other aspects of materials/resource efficiency including water use.


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