Reducing waste for retail gains

Going green within the retail industry is now more than just a social responsibility. It is also about meeting customer expectations for malls and brands to be environmentally friendly, especially when it comes to waste minimisation. What can be done to encourage malls and their retail tenants to recycle and reduce the amount of waste they generate? Muneerah Bee highlights some waste reduction plans by some malls and a store in Singapore.

The Rain Oculus located in the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands uses rainwater for their water feature instead of  pumping in fresh water. This water is also reused for their toilet flushing and part of the canal in the mall.

In 2016, waste disposed of at Singapore’s large shopping malls (that have more than 50,000sqf of net lettable area) amounted to 225,000 tonnes, accounting for about 7% of the total waste disposed in Singapore, according to the country’s National Environment Agency (NEA).

Although much of this waste is recyclable (such as packaging waste) and can be diverted away from incineration, the average recycling rate for the sector has remained low, at just 8% in 2016.

Consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of the importance of environmental sustainability. By conserving resources and recycling waste, mall operators and their retail tenants will not only save in terms of materials and waste disposal costs but also contribute to their sustainability efforts.

In October last year, the inaugural 3R Awards for Shopping Malls was launched by the NEA to recognise the notable efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle (3R), and identify exemplary role models for other retailers to emulate and provide a platform for consumers to recognise those that have made a concerted effort to do their part to protect the environment.

313@somerset and IKEA Alexandra clinched the 3R Awards under the Standalone Malls category, while Jem, Parkway Parade and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands won the 3R Award under the Mixed Developments category. Beauty brand Kiehl’s Since 1851 (Singapore) was conferred an award under the Mall Retail Tenants category.

Collectively, the five malls among the award winners have reduced and recycled more than 3,037 tonnes of waste in 2016, resulting in savings of about S$230,000 (US$ 175,253) in waste disposal costs, according to the agency.

Ronnie Tay, CEO of NEA, said he is heartened by the winners’ innovative efforts to tackle the various waste streams. “Food waste and packaging waste are two waste streams with potential for greater waste reduction, with food waste accounting for about a third of the waste generated at a typical shopping mall.

“I urge more shopping malls and their tenants to adopt the best practices and to refer to our newly launched Food Waste Minimisation Guidebook for Supermarkets (see box story) and our revamped 3R Guidebook for Shopping Malls for tips.”

• IKEA Alexandra

With a philosophy rooted in doing more with less, IKEA is considered as one of the pioneers in conserving resources as one of its sustainable practices. In line with the IKEA Group’s Sustainable Strategy, the furniture chain aims to make all its home furnishing products from renewable, recyclable or recycled materials. In addition, reducing waste at source is a key strategy at IKEA.

Since 2013, IKEA has stopped providing disposable bags to shoppers, and instead sells reusable bags. To encourage shoppers to make the switch, IKEA reduced the price of its recyclable bags. IKEA Alexandra, together with itsTampines branch, also started replacing disposable containers for take-away meals with reusable containers in March 2016.

Throughout the store, tips on how households can save resources and reduce waste are featured prominently on the display walls and recycling bins are sold to help shoppers kick-start the recycling habit.

In addition, instead of discarding used furniture, IKEA gives them away to non-governmental organisations, schools and neighbourhood communities where possible. Recycling activities are regularly organised at the store, such as the exchange of new LED lightbulbs for old bulbs brought to the store. Even waste oil from restaurants is sent for recycling into biodiesel.

Last year, IKEA Alexandra’s goal was to achieve a 75% recycling rate. To work towards its target, the retailer also engaged its stakeholders to inculcate collective responsibility for the environment. Visits to Semakau Landfill and a recycling plant were organised for its staff, home delivery partner and cleaning service provider to raise awareness of the need to reduce and recycle waste.

All new staff are also required to attend a workshop on sustainable practices.

Food waste accounts for about a third of the waste generated at a typical shopping mall in Singapore.

• 313@somerset

A Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Green Mark Platinum-certified mall managed by Lendlease, 313@somerset has put in place various initiatives to cut waste over the years. For example, recycling bins are placed prominently at strategic locations such as at lift lobbies, the office pantry and printing area in the office.

Posters encouraging the public to think of the environment and reduce food waste are placed around the mall. In 2011, 313@somerset installed an interactive display board with 3R information such as how much waste has been collected and recycled. This helps to create awareness among shoppers and tenants of the potential for waste reduction and recycling.

To encourage greater participation of shoppers, the mall also holds its ‘Green& Gorgeous Fashion Swap’ event every year, where used clothes and accessories are exchanged among participating shoppers. Any leftover items are donated to charity.

The backend is another area which the mall leverages to reduce and recycle waste. Tenants and staff are encouraged to reuse carton boxes and send them for recycling if they cannot be reused, and festive decorations are refurbished and reused creatively to make new decorations. In addition, all paper products purchased by the mall are either 100% FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified or contain recycled materials.

On top of collecting common recyclables such as paper, plastic, metal and glass, 313@somerset has also taken steps to tackle waste such as used cooking oil and food waste. Used cooking oil is collected for recycling into biofuel, and the mall is exploring the possibility of purchasing a food waste digester.

To reduce food wastage, the mall communicated with their tenants about donation avenues for excess food. As a group, Lendlease reportedly achieved a 15% waste reduction in the financial year of 2017, against its 2014 baseline.

Lendlease’s managing director, Singapore, Ng Hsueh Ling, said: “Sustainability is a key guiding principle here at Lendlease, so each mall’s business plan has to include environmental targets and an action plan with key sustainability initiatives to undertake.

“I am proud of what the teams have achieved thus far and we will continue to engage our tenants, shoppers and staff to raise awareness and shape behaviour on environmental sustainability.”

• Jem
Jem is another Green Mark Platinum mall, also managed by Lendlease, which aims to create a sustainable and enjoyable environment for the community. Shoppers are encouraged to place their recyclables into conveniently-placed recycling bins around the mall and a green corner is set up at the bin centre to encourage tenants to separate their recyclables such as paper, metal cans, glass bottles and plastic.

In addition to bins for the common recyclables, Jem provides a special bin for the collection of used fluorescent lamps and bulbs from their tenants for recycling. Since its opening, the mall has had an on-site food waste digester that converts food waste into fertiliser. Used cooking oil from F&B tenants is also collected and recycled into biofuel.

Outreach activities such as bimonthly quizzes and roadshows are conducted to raise awareness among shoppers on sustainability issues and ways to reduce waste. In March last year, the ‘Green is In! Go Green this March!’ event was held, where shoppers received free gifts and vouchers in exchange for recyclables brought to the mall.

The mall also actively engages its tenants to reduce and recycle, and use recyclable materials or materials with recycled content. Excursions to waste management facilities have been organised for tenants and staff to create awareness of the need to reduce waste.

More than 1,180 clothing items were
swapped or donated at 313@somerset’s
‘Green & Gorgeous Fashion Swap’.

Ong Soo San, director, waste and resource management department, NEA, said: “With waste disposal quantities in Singapore steadily increasing over the years, it’s heartening to see mall operators like Lendlease prioritising sustainability and doing their part to engage and influence their network of shoppers, tenants and staff in the greater adoption of 3R practices.”

• The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
With close to 800,000sqf of retail space and 270 boutiques and restaurants, the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands’ sustainability initiatives are focused on engaging tenants, investing in leading technologies, and measuring and reporting waste generated to bring about greater awareness.

The mall has a dedicated sustainability team and monthly working groups to improve upon its waste management and recycling practices.

Speaking to Retail Asia, John Postle, vice-president, Retail, Marina Bay Sands, said the mall’s extensive retail space and the multitude of tenants present a huge opportunity to get its retail stakeholders and shoppers involved to make a difference. “In a highly competitive retail environment, our sustainability efforts also differentiate us from our competitors. Some examples of our initiatives to create a green culture include recycling competitions and waste management programmes.

“Marina Bay Sands also supports our tenants in undergoing an audit process to receive an ‘Eco-F&B’ or ‘Eco-Shop’ certification by the Singapore Environmental Council (SEC). This award is a significant endorsement of our efforts, and we hope to inspire other malls in Singapore and the region to embrace more sustainable operations.”

A wide range of annual activities are carried out to inspire tenants to actively reduce and recycle waste, such as contests where tenants are named as the top recyclers, creating friendly competition to encourage tenants to recycle waste. Conservancy workers are also rewarded when certain recycling targets are met. This motivates them to ensure that recyclables are properly segregated.

Tenants are also required to follow the mall’s green construction guidelines which state that key materials such as hoardings must be reused and recycled. The mall’s F&B outlets are encouraged to get the Eco-F&B certification by the SEC, which teaches operators how to reduce their carbon footprint through measures such as food waste tracking and better waste management practices.

Stores are similarly encouraged to get SEC’s Eco-Shop certification, which encourages waste tracking, provision of recycling bins and training staff on 3R practices. On top of food wastage reduction efforts, which include the hygienic donation of leftover food to charities, the whole Marina Bay Sands development has five food waste digesters to treat food waste generated, including food waste from its tenants.

To rope in its staff in its sustainability push, all personal bins were replaced by shared recycling and general waste bins. All staff are encouraged to use their own utensils and containers to reduce the use of disposables. Collectively, these efforts have tripled the amount of waste reduced by the mall, according to the company.

In addition, the Rain Oculus located in the Shoppes uses rainwater for its water feature instead of pumping in fresh water. This water is also reused for toilet flushing and forms part of the canal in the mall.

• Parkway Parade
Parkway Parade, another mall managed by Lendlease, has set a target to raise its recycling rate to 32% by 2020. To do so, it is actively tackling various waste streams. Recycling bins are available throughout the mall and regular environmental roadshows are held to spread the importance of the 3Rs. In 2017, the mall held a ‘Recycle and Rejoice’ event, where shoppers received a S$5 voucher for every 5kg of recyclables brought to the mall.

At the mall, cardboard boxes are collected from tenants by roving housekeeping personnel for recycling. In addition, food waste collected from its F&B outlets is sent to a food waste digester and the by-product is fed back to the system as backwash.

Parkway Parade has also implemented green leasing agreements, where new tenants are required to support the mall’s waste management objectives and F&B outlets must participate in segregating food waste for treatment. To reduce food wastage, the mall also plans to distribute food wastage reduction collateral (such as posters and table-top stickers) to its tenants. Parkway Parade also hosted a food waste reduction exhibition where panels were displayed on the importance of the proper management of food waste and games with shoppers were played to communicate easy tips on how to reduce food wastage at home and when dining out.

• Kiehl’s Since 1851 (Singapore)

Return your Kiehl’s empty containers to the recycling bin in Kiehl’s stores and be rewarded.

US cosmetics brand under the L’Oréal Group Kiehl’s Since 1851 is committed to ensuring that it minimises the impact of its packaging on the environment by maximising the use of recycled materials in its packaging, while reducing the amount of packaging used in its products.

Customers are also encouraged to return used Kiehl’s containers to the retail stores for recycling. Each store has an internal target to meet and a recycling bin is placed beside the payment counter at every store.

As an incentive to encourage consumers to recycle used packaging and reduce their use of disposable bags, Kiehl’s has a scheme where stamps are given to customers for returning empty containers and using Kiehl’s tote bag in place of taking a paper bag. The accumulated stamps can then be redeemed for complimentary gifts.

To spread the message of the importance of waste reduction and recycling, Kiehl’s communicates its incentive 3R scheme to its customers through its website, social media platforms and electronic direct mailers. The retailer also trains its staff on how to recognise recycling symbols and to dispose recyclables, such as cardboard boxes and product packaging, correctly into the recycling bins within the malls they are located at.

“Green retail is important for Kiehl’s and L’Oréal Singapore, as we strongly believe that together with our consumers, we can play a leading role in improving environmental and social footprint of retail,” said Isabelle Lim, corporate communications director at L’Oréal Group Singapore.

“This is why sustainability is in the heart of all that we do: from supply chain, ingredients, and product development to packaging and even post purchase where we encourage consumers to recycle and be rewarded when they return empty Kiehl’s bottles and use recyclable bags,” she concluded.

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