Midcounties Co-operative has achieved a 90% recycling rate across more than 200 of its food stores, as it continues its drive to create sustainable communities and reduce its carbon footprint.
The achievement follows several years of work by the society, the UK’s largest independent co-operative. Five years ago, it introduced dry mixed recycling across all of its sites and, in 2010, it set up a waste and recycling partnership with waste management company Biffa.
Midcounties is now also backhauling waste from over 200 stores to distribution centres, where it is separated into the waste streams for recycling before being sent on for reprocessing into other materials, which both reduces transport miles and increases the environmental benefits of recycling.
Food waste from food retail sites is sent to an anaerobic digester to produce renewable energy – a process which produces enough energy to power 40 homes a year.
Sustainability manager Mike Pickering said: “It is testament to the hard work of our colleagues and the support of partners like Biffa that we have been able to significantly improve our recycling processes.
“We’re committed to creating sustainable communities and are constantly looking for more ways to reduce our carbon footprint.”
The recycling work helps Midcounties meet the seventh co-operative principle, concern for community, and the society has made sure its employees were engaged and involved in the process. Environmental champions were appointed to take responsibility for recycling rates in stores. And a recycling awards programme, which created a competitive culture between sites, saw the society’s Grove Food Store in Oxford achieve a 99% recycling rate by the end of 2012.
The society is now diverting more than 4,000 tonnes of waste from landfill, saving it £280,000 in annual costs alongside environmental benefits. The work has won awards from Business in the Community (BITC), the Corporate Responsibility Index and the Carbon Trust.
Midcounties Co-operative has gross sales of over £1bn, and mostly operates is Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Buckinghamshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.