Aiming for zero waste

Five years ago, we set the goal of achieving zero waste to landfill by 2018.

At the start of the program, our company wide recycling rate was 69.8%. This year, we increased our rate to 80%. Our main waste streams across our stores, distribution centres and offices are paper, cardboard and soft plastics.

What is zero waste?

Zero waste status can be granted to businesses who divert more than 90% of their waste from landfill. As we get closer to this 90% mark, we renew our commitment to aim for a true 100% and to be transparent about our progress. We know the last percentage points will be the most difficult to achieve.

Our priorities

We started by auditing waste across our network. We use waste scorecards to create ‘green scores’ for each of our stores to show which waste streams they recycle. This helps us understand where we need to integrate recycling bins.

Our priority list of waste materials to recycle:

1) Soft plastic (mainly polybags and shrink wrap)
2) Cardboard and paper
3) Damaged stock
4) Co-mingled recycling
5) Silica gel pouches

Priority number 1: Polybags

The significant increase for our waste journey is based on implementing clear soft plastics recycling into 38 stores. This has resulted in over 15 tonnes of clear soft plastics from going to landfill each year. We also reached 100% polybag recycling in New Zealand.

Australia remains our biggest challenge as the recycling streams are controlled by shopping centres and landlords.

Re-use programs

To achieve our target, we will have plastic and mixed waste recycling into every one of our stores by 2018. We’re searching for reuse programs for the hard-to-recycle stuff.

For instance, REDGroup has developed and implemented the REDcycle program: a service that collects soft plastics to make products. In Australia, REDcycle partners with plastic manufacturer, Replas, to create plastic products such as benches, table settings, bollards, and decking. To date, over 400 million pieces of plastic have been diverted from landfill.

Empowering our team

A big part of the program is bringing all our stores along on the journey — to give them the power and incentives to find their own solutions.

In 2015, we put soft plastic recycling bins into the Dunedin store, the Melbourne CBD store, and the Melbourne Distribution Centre. For the distribution centre, this brought the percentage of plastic recycling up from approximately 65% to 91%.

Waste strategy is now built into our store development program so that recycling is considered when each new store is being planned.

Learn more about sustainability at Kathmandu >