The Co-operative in drive to divert all food store waste from landfill

May 28, 2013

The Co-operative Group is rolling out an innovative recycling scheme that will divert all food store waste away from landfill, whilst radically reducing road miles and operating costs.

The Co-operative, which has one of the largest and most diverse food retail estates across the UK, is extending its waste back-haul initiative to more than 2,800 food stores.

The scheme, which maximises recycling and anaerobic digestion processes and minimises the use of incineration, will divert more than 34,000 tonnes of food store waste away from landfill every year *, which will be re-cycled, re-used, turned into energy or sold on.

It has already been introduced at around 1,500 food stores and is now being rolled out at pace to its entire food store estate, and is on track to be completed this summer.

The back-haul system involves waste being segregated at store level, before collection and delivery by The Co-operative’s Logistics Service to its distribution depots.

From there, waste management specialists, Biffa, deal with the waste as follows:

  • waste food and flowers go for anaerobic digestion to generate biogas energy;
  • customer and general waste go to a refuse-derived fuel facility, which shreds and dehydrates solid waste to produce fuel;
  • dry mixed items, such as empty milk bottles, tins, cans, office paper and till receipts, go to dedicated materials recycling facilities, which sort and separate materials which can be recycled into new goods and products.

Cardboard and polythene will continue to be baled and sent for recycling.

In addition, the scheme will knock thousands of miles off the distribution network, end more than 225,000 skip collections from food stores every year and halve The Co-operative’s food waste management costs.

David Roberts, Director of Trading Property, The Co-operative Food, said: “As a community-based retailer with an ethical approach to business we have a social responsibility to reduce waste that goes to landfill, and we have pledged in our Ethical Plan to divert all our food store waste from landfill by the end of 2013, which we will achieve by the end of July, five months ahead of schedule.

“The Co-operative has one of the largest and most complex networks of all food retailers in the UK and we therefore needed a robust, but commercially viable, strategy to meet our own tough targets.

“However, after a lot of hard work we have created a unique initiative which brings all-round benefits to our stores across the country, and the local communities in which they serve, as well as the environment and the business. The waste back-haul project is a win-win solution. It will not only divert all our food store waste away from landfill, but will also convert it into a valuable resource, which we believe sets new standards in waste management.”

Marcus Gover, Director of Closed Loop Economy, WRAP, which has worked alongside The Co-operative in an advisory role during the trials for the waste back-hauling project, commented: “The Co-operative Food has developed a solution that fits with the complexity of their portfolio, large number of sites and their locations across the UK.  It will achieve diversion of waste from landfill through increased recycling and treatment of food waste by AD – all whilst reducing their waste management costs.  We are supportive of this project and commend them on introducing this scheme across all their stores.”

Additional Information: 

* Annually all food store waste – around 34,000 tonnes – will be diverted from landfill, including:

  • 64% food waste to anaerobic digestion to generate energy
  • 15% dry mixed recycling to a materials recovery facility
  • 21% general and customer waste to a refuse derived fuel facility and then energy recovery

The Co-operative is committed to reducing food waste, both in store and in customers’ homes, and has several other processes in place at store level and in the supply chain. It ensures stores maintain the right amount of stock availability and stock holding, it uses the latest packaging technology to increase shelf-life and also provides more prominent storage instructions to help customers reduce their waste at home.

It has already reduced the weight of its own-brand packaging by almost 20% since 2009, and has cut the waste it generates by 37% since 2006 – saving almost 50,000 tonnes a year.

The retailer is also working with national charity, FareShare, by sending surplus foods from distribution depots, such as oversupplies and products with damaged but intact packaging, to be enjoyed by some of the most disadvantaged people in the community.

Contact Information: 

Kieran Howlett   
Senior Public Relations Officer
The Co-operative Group
Mob: 07739 657 585