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Waste Management

Waste management

Waste is not only damaging to the environment but also costly for our business, so we are focused on reducing waste and maximising recycling wherever we can. In our High Street stores, we operate a dry mix recycling system which enables the stores to recycle most forms of waste, including plastics and metals. Store teams receive regular updates and training to ensure that they are separating their waste correctly and maximising the amount of waste they recycle. Waste is also carefully separated in our distribution centres and offices, again to maximise the volumes which are recycled.

We have seen a slight increase in the amount of waste going to landfill year on year. This is due, in part, to increased sales of Stationery products, which come with more packaging than Books, as well as a large refresh of window point of sale which resulted in more waste paper being generated. At the same, the proportion of waste recycled in High Street has increased year on year, partly due to the shift in sales mix from books to stationery, and also as a result of our work to reduce the contamination of collections through better locks on bins. Overall 89 per cent of our waste was recycled during 2016/17.

The waste recycling data we collect covers our distribution centres, offices and those High Street stores where WHSmith has direct control of the waste management contracts. For our High Street stores in shopping centres, recycling programmes are operated by our landlords. For these stores, we make some assumptions about the levels of recycling, so that our overall waste volumes reflect the waste managed in all of our High Street stores. We do not capture the waste recycling carried out in our Travel stores where waste management is handled by our landlords.

Eliminating food waste is a priority for our Travel business. This is however a complex area, and we need to develop different strategies for chilled food versus ambient food. We have made good progress in improving our forecasting of chilled food sales, so that we only stock the chilled food that we expect to sell, and therefore reducing waste volumes. We have been able to deliver a 28 per cent reduction in sandwich waste, and we are targeting further reductions in the year ahead. We have also been trialling markdown strategies for our chilled food, again to reduce waste volumes as far as we can. For the chilled food waste which cannot be avoided, we continue to look for ways to donate this to foodbanks and charities, however this is currently proving challenging due to the safety concerns associated with these products.

In our M&S Simply Food stores, we are working to reduce the amount of short life food products unsold at the end of each day. Currently our target is for these products to make up less than five per cent of our daily food waste. This is the same target that the main M&S estate use as part of their Plan A. In one month, we have been able to reduce our waste costs by over £15,000 by focusing on this area, and we are planning to continue this work into 2017/18 to make further reductions.

Reducing packaging

We regularly review our product packaging to minimise waste created by our own-brand products. Excessive packaging continues to be a concern for consumers and environmental stakeholders. We share this concern as unnecessary packaging represents a triple cost to our business: the cost of the packaging, paying for it to be transported to our distribution centres and stores and the waste disposal costs once the packaging is discarded.

Each year, we are required to report the quantity of the packaging we handle to the Environment Agency and ensure that a set percentage of this material has been recycled, through payment of a packaging levy. The majority of our consumer packaging is within our Stationery category and the buying team have an ongoing programme to work with our design team and our suppliers to improve the way we package our products.

Reducing carrier bags

Reducing the number of single-use plastic carrier bags we hand out has been a focus for many years, with our staff habitually asking customers whether they need a carrier bag and promoting the use of re-usable bags. Following the introduction of the single-use carrier bag levies across the UK, we saw single-use bag consumption reduce by around a third as first Wales and Northern Ireland, then Scotland and then England introduced their 5p single use bag levies. This year, we introduced a Bag for Life which is available in all of our High Street and Travel stores and has resulted in a dramatic further drop in single-use bag consumption, down by around 90% year on year.

For the single-use bags that are still used, we donate the proceeds from the levy to good causes. During the year, we have donated almost £220,000 to our charity partners. This is down on last year, reflecting the significant drop in the number of single-use bags we have given out. In our Travel business, this money goes to Shelter to support the charity’s vital work with individuals and families affected by homelessness. In our High Street business, the levy proceeds go to the WHSmith Community Fund, which makes grants to hundreds of customer-nominated schools and charities across the UK. Many of the grants go to schools, with the other grants going to support a wide range of charities from local hospices, to brownie packs, and air ambulance services. More information on the criteria for these grants is available at


Helping our customers to reduce waste

We want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to recycle the products that we sell when they reach the end of their lives. Collection points are in place in the majority of our stores for customers to recycle their old batteries and this year we have collected nearly six tonnes of batteries for recycling.

In order to improve facilities for customers to recycle waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), we are members of the Distributor Takeback Scheme. The scheme provides funding for local authorities to enhance the WEEE takeback facilities in their civic amenity sites. We provide signage in-store which informs customers about the importance of recycling the valuable components within these products and directs them to their local civic amenity site with WEEE recycling capability.

Conserving water resources

Water resources are in increasingly high demand in many parts of the world and this trend looks likely to continue. WHSmith stores do not use large quantities of water, on average far less than an average household would use, however we are taking steps to ensure that we use this resource efficiently. Many of our stores have water meters in place to monitor the water we use and identify any possible savings. New stores and any store refurbishment work include water-saving sanitaryware as part of the specification.