Going to waste

The role of technology in reducing waste and saving money

Shopping centre operators and facilities management firms are under increasing pressure to meet increasingly ambitious sustainability goals while trying to remain cost efficiency as footfall slowly creeps back to pre-pandemic levels.

The retail sector is in the spotlight of the green agenda. Thanks to innovation within waste management, however, some retail destinations are seeing dramatic reductions in the waste they send for disposal and are cutting collections by up to 50% as a result.

General waste, which is the remaining waste which has not been segregated, can typically account for around 50% of total waste. By turning to technology, retail destinations are able to cut waste sent for disposal through innovation – reducing their carbon footprint and saving money in the process.

Dr Stephen Wise, chief product officer at environmental biotechnology company Advetec which specialises in the reduction of residual waste streams, explains how the technology is empowering the industry to make dramatic changes and achieve game-changing benefits.

 “In the retail sector it is our aim is to reduce the quantity of waste leaving site, thereby cutting the costs associated with the residual waste. In turn, this lessens the number of journeys required for collection, ultimately reducing the carbon footprint of retail waste and saving money,” Wise explains.

Advetec has developed a means of digesting retail waste using  lends of bacteria inside enclosed aerobic reactors which are installed on-site at the shopping centre. One shopping centre benefiting from investment in the innovative technology is the 750,000 sq ft shopping destination The Mall at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol.

Wise says that Advtec worked with the mall’s management team and facilities management partner, Incentive FM, to design a system which would fit with existing operations, factoring in the challenges of location and access, bin size, collection frequency, average weights and waste types.

According to Wise, the machine, which was installed during September 2020, delivered mass and volume reductions almost instantly: “It operates almost autonomously, requiring little interaction from the centre’s recycling team. The process is really simple – a wheelie bin is placed onto a bin lift and the machine takes over, lifting and emptying the waste into a hopper, which in turn feeds a shredder.

“Then the magic happens – biotech additives are introduced, and the organic waste is digested, with the only bi-products of the aerobic digestion process being carbon dioxide and water vapour. All that’s left behind is a digestate which has various uses – negating the need for landfill.”

John Ellis, environmental services manager of Incentive FM, who oversees waste management for the centre says the technology transformed the speed at which the destination can proves waste, reducing waste volume by over half and cutting collections by 50% to make significant cost saving.

“The retail sector is embracing use of technology in almost every aspect of their operations – why not waste, too?” says Ellis. “I’d encourage operators to open their minds to innovation here, investment can be transformational, both in terms of ESG and commercial objectives.”

This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.

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