John Lewis Partnership Aims for Closed Loop with New Waste Plastics Strategy

January 17, 2013 at 9:31 AM

The John Lewis Partnership has committed to developing a 'closed loop' waste plastics strategy through a pioneering new contract with Liverpool-based recycler Centriforce Products - a move believed to be a first for any UK retailer.

The new arrangement will guarantee that thousands of tonnes of plastics waste from Waitrose and John Lewis shops are recycled into useable products by Centriforce, the UK's largest independent plastics recycler.

The new contract is part of the John Lewis Partnership's radical strategy to streamline its waste contractors and keep complete control and responsibility for its waste flows, ensuring as much as possible is recycled.

The retailer is also exploring opportunities to reuse Centriforce products such as plastic planks, boards and sheeting in its new store construction programme to achieve a true 'closed loop' in its plastics waste stream.

Centriforce will collect more than 3,000 tonnes of plastics waste from John Lewis and Waitrose distribution centres across the UK annually and bring the waste to its Liverpool manufacturing centre.

"We want to be completely transparent in our approach to waste management and ensure that as much as possible is recycled and then reused in our own businesses," said Mike Walters, Recycling and Waste Operations Manager for the John Lewis Partnership. "We are committed to keeping ownership of our waste all the way to its final destination, rather than selling it to the highest bidder, or losing control over what happens to it.

Centriforce has capacity to recycle more than 20,000 tonnes of plastics waste a year to produce plastic sheets, boards and profiles. These offer a durable alternative to wood and traditional materials and could find a wide range of uses in store.

Mike continues: "We are working with Centriforce's innovations team to explore ways in which we can reuse more recycled plastic products in our stores in future, especially for new store construction. We already have recycled plastic furniture made by Centriforce outside most of our Waitrose and John Lewis stores. Centriforce planks and posts were also used recently in an employee-led project to build a boardwork through historic woodland close to our Bracknell headquarters."

All waste plastics from John Lewis and Waitrose stores - from warehouse packaging and pallet films to used Waitrose 'Bags for Life'- are transported to central distribution centres by returning delivery vehicles.

"We have had a policy of backhauling our waste through the space available in empty vehicles for a number of years. It provides the perfect starting point for recycling," adds Mike. "We have declared our aspiration to achieve zero waste to landfill with a diversion target of 95% by the end of 2013. Plastics waste plays an important role in that, but even more exciting is the possibility that it can be recycled into products we can use again."

Centriforce has been working with the John Lewis Partnership to recycle a proportion of its waste for more than five years. However, in the new contract Centriforce will reprocess all of the John Lewis Partnership's soft plastics. The contract follows Centriforce's recent investment in its own mixed plastics sorting line, a facility vital to guarantee the processing capacity needed by the John Lewis Partnership.

Centriforce is one of the few UK recyclers to take the decision to develop an in-house capability for sorting mixed plastics, recognising the need to contribute to a more robust infrastructure for plastics recycling in the UK.

"The John Lewis Partnership is taking a visionary approach to its plastics waste management which is an example of good practice not only for other retailers, but for any businesses with multiple outlets or sites nationwide," said Centriforce's Managing Director Simon Carroll.

"By working with Centriforce, the John Lewis Partnership can ensure it avoids landfill costs and makes an income from its waste arisings. Furthermore, it is pioneering closed loop arrangements which provide the perfect demonstration of total waste ownership as well as underpinning the company's sustainable corporate responsibility."

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