How retailers can keep on top of their waste this Christmas

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for businesses in many industries, with statistics showing that in the UK alone, we create around 30% more waste during the festive period. Though the likes of pubs, restaurants and hotels can be said to be some of the main offenders when it comes to producing this waste due to their increased footfall in the run-up to Christmas, the retail industry is one of the biggest producers of waste in general. As a matter of fact, WRAP estimates that around 6.5 Mt (metric tonnes) of waste arises from manufacturing and retailing, and 1.6 Mt of this waste is said to be from retailers.

The large amount of waste being produced is certainly no different for retailers during the busy festive period. Various reasons, such as more products and produce being delivered to stores, and additional advertising materials (such as signs and banners) being displayed in-store, lead to an increase in waste being created from both the retailers, and the people that purchase their products. Unfortunately, no matter what type of business you run, all this waste needs to be disposed of efficiently and correctly.

Add to this the fact that many stores offer gift wrapping services for products purchased from October onwards, as well as the fact that most retailers will decorate their premises for the festive season, and you’ve got a lot of cardboard, plastic and metal waste on your hands!

It may seem daunting, but there are many steps retailers can take to keep on top of their waste during the Christmas period. To ensure your retail business is doing everything it can to ensure its compliance with essential waste legislation and reduce its environmental impact, phs Wastekit has put together this useful guide on what you need to know…

Why is it important to reduce waste and better manage it?

When it comes to managing your business waste, the most important thing to do is reduce the amount you produce in the first place. It’s no secret that waste is quickly destroying our planet, and more and more retailers are taking steps to reduce the amount they send to landfill. This is something you should be taking inspiration from all-year-round (and not just at Christmas time).

When waste is sent to landfill, it emits greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide (CO2), into the air. This directly contributes to global warming by raising the Earth’s temperature, causing sea levels to rise and the polar ice caps to melt. As we already know, this climate change has a detrimental effect on all forms of life on our planet, including humans. Frighteningly, we can already see the effects of climate change on our planet due to the increase in natural disasters.

This has led to the authors of the recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stressing that we have just 12 years left to keep climate change to a maximum level of 1.5C. As The Guardian explains, sadly, if this temperature rises by even half a degree, the risk of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty will increase for hundreds of millions of people around the world. If it does rise to 2C, insects (whose existence is vital for the pollination of crops) are also almost twice as likely to lose half of their habitat.

It might seem all doom and gloom, but it isn’t too late for retailers and other businesses to take action.

An easy place to start is with plastic bags you give to your customers. Fortunately, this is an issue that is already being tackled, thanks to the introduction of Wales’ (and later, the rest of the UK’s) 5p plastic bag charge for retailers and food outlets. Since its implementation in 2015, the 7 leading supermarkets have seen an 86% decrease in plastic bag sales. With this in mind, you should train your employees on how they can reduce the amount of single-use plastic bags being given to customers, such as by asking them if they really need one to carry their items in.

Another way your business can reduce waste is by increasing the amount you recycle, especially during the festive period, when your waste production and disposal levels are at their highest during the year. With the Christmas period just weeks away, now is an ideal time to reassess your business’s processes when it comes to waste.

As well as helping to save the environment, recycling more will also help your business to fulfil its legal obligation to reduce the amount of waste materials being sent to landfill. The GOV.UK website outlines business’s responsibilities to keep waste to a minimum by doing everything they can to prevent, reuse, recycle or recover it (in this order). Businesses are also required to sort and store this waste both safely and securely to prevent contamination and enable waste materials to be reused more easily.

If you needed any further convincing about the benefits of recycling your waste, another great benefit for businesses is that you can make money from your recyclable materials by separating them by type and selling them to a recycling company. At phs Wastekit, we work with a number of recycling companies across the UK to help our customers get the most from their waste.

In terms of saving your business money, you should also remember that the amount of landfill tax you pay is based on the volume of waste you send to landfill. For retailers during Christmas, this volume is going to be considerably higher than usual. So, the more waste materials you recycle and the less you send to landfill, the less negative effect your business will have on the Earth, and the more cost savings you’ll be able to make.

Additionally, one of the simplest reasons why retail businesses should dispose of their waste efficiently is to uphold a positive brand image. Clean and tidy premises are vital for giving visitors and customers the right impression of your company, and it will improve their shopping experience (and your chance of making that all-important sale) by making it easier for them to find products.

Messy premises with overflowing bins and piles of boxes and plastic packaging piled up in corners can also present a considerable health and safety risk in the form of slips, trips and falls. As the Health and Safety Executive dictates, every business has a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees, plus any individuals that may be affected by their business. In the case of retailers, this applies to their customers and any other visitors to their premises.

As a Labour Force Survey reveals, 609,000 injuries occurred in the workplace in 2016/17. According to statistics from HSE, the most common cause of these injuries in that same time period were slips, trips and falls (on the same level). So, you should be doing all you can to eliminate this risk.

How retailers can reduce and manage waste at Christmas

Invest in a waste baler or compactor

Waste balers and compactors are both essential for businesses that want to better manage their waste not just at Christmas, but all year round. One of the biggest advantages of both types of equipment is that they reduce your volume of waste by compacting or baling it, which helps you keep your premises tidy and lowering your landfill tax costs. However, a baler will also segregate different waste materials (such as plastic and cardboard) before baling it. This makes it easier for businesses to recycle.

Worried about the amount of space a baler or compactor will use in your premises? The good news is that both types of equipment are available in a range of sizes to suit your needs, making them suitable various retail environments. This ranges from small shops, to large shopping centres.

Use recycled packaging for products

A number of businesses are housing many of their products in recyclable materials, particularly in the beauty industry. This is something that every company should be working towards in a bid to save our Earth, particularly during the time of the year when we buy and receive so many gifts! As well as using recycled packaging for as many products as possible, retail stores that offer a gift-wrapping service in-store can easily make the switch to using recycled wrapping paper and tissue paper.

Sell more products without packaging

Another easy way to reduce the amount of waste is to sell more products without packaging. This can work particularly well for supermarkets and other retailers that sell fresh produce, as this is often sold loose. However, the natural cosmetics company, Lush, is already making waves by selling bath bombs, shower gels, shampoo bars and other products without plastic packaging.

 If you sell products (such as loose confectionery and produce) without packaging, you can also offer a discount to any customers that use their own. As an example, someone buying the vegetables for their Christmas dinner could be given money off their purchase if they bring in their own bag or box to take their items home in.

Have an incentivised recycling scheme

In a similar vein, your company can increase the amount of waste being recycled by setting up its own recycling scheme for any packaging made from recyclable materials, such as plastic and cardboard. An easy way to encourage customers to partake in this type of scheme is by offering vouchers and sample-size products in return for their recyclable materials. Your business can then segregate these materials on-site, ready to be reused or recycled.

To find out more about how phs Wastekit can help you reduce your environmental impact and make money from your recyclable materials during the Christmas period, complete our Wastesaving Audit or contact us for more information.

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