John Lewis justifies no waste export stance
Sending no waste abroad is the best way to ensure that is managed in an
environmentally sound manner, according to the head of recycling at the John
Mike Walters, the retailer’s operations manager for recycling & waste, made the comments while addressing representatives of Norfolk’s business sector last week (February 7) at a session hosted by Norfolk county council.
The ‘Enterprise in Waste Summit’ was organised to encourage businesses in the region to collaborate on ways of managing waste more effectively and cost efficiently.
In his presentation to delegates, Mr Walters outlined John Lewis’ policy to minimise the amount of waste that it sends to landfill, and to ensure that all of the waste it produces is handled within the UK.
He said: "When waste goes to China or India, what chance do I have of knowing that it is being recycled properly? I can’t let our company be associated with that.
"We have looked at recycling waste exclusively in the UK since about 2009 as China began to start to close its gates. I don’t want my business being at their beck and call as to whether they want that material. It might stimulate investment that is badly needed within the UK.”
He explained that the company uses five UK contractors to handle each of the waste streams it creates, including its recently announced deal with Liverpool-based plastics recycler Centriforce for mixed plastics recycling (see letsrecycle.com story).
Meanwhile, paper and card are processed by Smurfit Kappa, WEEE and mixed metals are processed by WasteCare, food and waste cooking oils are processed by Cawleys and residual waste and glass handled by Simply Waste Solutions.
And, according to Mr Walters, by simplifying the management of waste and recycling to just five contractors across its more than 300 Waitrose and John Lewis stores nationwide, it is easier for the company to monitor the end destinations of its waste.
He said: "I have been working to consolidate our contract base because we had so many different contracts and that made it very difficult, but we are now down to five key contracts. The business of retaining ownership of our waste relies on me working closely with those contractors.”
Delegates from businesses including Bernard Matthews, Anglia Farmers Ltd, Lotus and Homebase, as well as community groups and waste industry representatives from companies including May Gurney and Biffa also attended the summit at Norwich City Football Club.
Opening the event, councillor Bill Borrett, acting leader and portfolio holder for environment and waste at Norfolk county council, said: "Up until recently Norfolk county council has been very prescriptive in its dealings with the private sector on waste. In the past, I am aware that it has been very difficult for people with new ideas to find people to speak to.
"I personally have a goal to get people in Norfolk to think that we could lead the way in innovation. I would like to see a forum where ideas are shared and are challenged so you can interact with people in the waste industry.”
The session also heard from Richard Featherstone, development manager for London Re-use Limited, who told delegates about reuse initiatives in the capital. Following his involvement in the summit Mr Featherstone agreed to offer his assistance in establishing a reuse network within Norfolk.
Commenting on the session, he said: "It was clear to me that the Norfolk county council articulated that they are forward thinking, open minded and engaging with the business community in order to find the practical solutions for better re-use services. They don’t want to limit the ideas for the way ahead to those within the council’s team. For those of us dedicated to re-use this is what we want to see.”