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Business case studies

Waste prevention in business

Read the case studies from, or watch the interviews with local businesses below for ideas on how being wise about waste can lead to a better environment and better profits for your business.

North London business case studies

Pentland Brands Plc, Barnet

Pentland Brands is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pentland Group, a privately-owned third generation family business. Pentland Brands owns a portfolio of well-known sports, outdoor and fashion brands, which it sells in over 170 countries. Since 1985, the company’s international headquarters have been in Finchley, North London, where it employs 450 people.

“A business that thinks and acts responsibly”
Pentland recognised the potential for improvements at its Finchley-based HQ. when it discovered that most of its office waste ended up in landfill. In 2009, Pentland set an ambitious target: To reduce its levels of waste to landfill by at least 50% by minimising office waste and improving recycling facilities.

Making changes
Pentland introduced a range of waste prevention and waste management initiatives to help the business reduce its environmental impacts, while also saving money.

‘Think Before You Print’ campaign
Like most offices, paper made up a big proportion of waste at Pentland.
The ‘Think Before You Print’ campaign introduced double sided printing as the default option on all office printers and Pentland changed all of their paper to a single source of environmentally accredited ‘Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)’ paper. This campaign had the direct result of reducing paper usage by 125,000 sheets per quarter. This equates to a staggering 200 boxes of paper per year!

Office copiers and printers
Pentland worked with its supplier to introduce less energy-intensive printers. Print settings were automatically defaulted to black and white, which dramatically reduced the number of colour prints, and in turn, the use of colour print cartridges.

Colour coded recycling system
Only separated clean waste can be recycled, so individual waste bins at people’s desks were removed and replaced with colour coded recycling bins on every floor.

Raising awareness and changing behaviour
Managers recognised the importance of getting all staff involved in waste prevention initiatives, so they implemented the following activities:

  • Nominated recycling champions for each floor.
  • Held internal competitions for zero contam-ination of recycling.
  • Organised environmental awareness days including a Love Food Hate Waste interactive stall and regular ‘D Days’ – (Donate Don’t Dump) giving good quality items to north London charities.
  • Held training sessions to inform, motivate, and encourage participation, and prevent contamination in the new recycling scheme.
  • Created internal communication materials for the recycling champions to use, such as posters with handy hints about reusing paper, using your own mug instead of a disposable one, and not ordering extra stationery!

Worth the weight
Pentland’s Finchley HQ reduced its waste to landfill by an impressive 70%. This was over and above the initial target of 50%. As a result, the main benefits to the company were:

  • Cost savings incurred by recycling more materials rather than sending to landfill, which has reduced money spent on landfill tax.
  • Increased staff awareness of environmental issues related to waste minimisation and recycling, bringing a step change in behaviour.
  • Pentland Brands is now seen as a business that thinks and acts responsibly, which is important for demonstrating the company’s values to its staff, visiting partners and customers.

A greener future
Pentland is committed to reducing its waste even further, by setting the target of increasing its recycling rate by an extra 20%.

“At Pentland we are as committed to reducing the environmental impacts of our office-based operations as we are to producing responsible products. Our achievements in waste reduction show that a little extra thought from everyone can make a huge difference.”
Andy Rubin, CEO

Alara, Camden

Preventing waste pays off!
Alara Wholefoods, a muesli manufacturing business located in the heart of Kings Cross adopted their Zero Waste policy in 2008. The policy helping the business move towards wasting nothing they use by avoiding producing it in the first place or through increased recycling.

The business has 50 staff, produces over 70 tonnes of muesli a week and at any time can produce over 24240 different types of muesli. They export to approximately 1515 countries worldwide and produce 75% of the UK’s fair-trade and 60% of the organic muesli, in fact they produced the first approved organic muesli in the country.

How they achieved zero waste
There’s potentially a lot of waste to deal with both from their staff and operations. So how did they do it?

  • Packaging paper and plastic are all recycled
  • Food waste is collected by a commercial recycling company
  • Office papers composted on site in their community garden
  • Empty boxes are reused
  • Batteries, electrical equipment and metal taken to Islington recycling centre
  • Printer cartridges are refilled by Cartridge World

Why they adopted this policy
Not only does it make sense for the environment it also makes good business sense too! There were clear reasons for doing this:

Helping the Environment
Zero Waste helps the environment – the more we recycle the less waste goes to land fill sites.

Staff involvement
As a result of Alara’s green initiative, the team now have a clear goal of their own and have become more productive, less wasteful and, ultimately, closer. As well as increased output the zero waste policies have built Alara into a healthier, happier workplace.

Commercial Benefit
Today’s consumer is much more savvy and ‘enviro-conscious’ than 5 years ago. Whether your products are zero waste, fair trade or organic they will have an improved image with your end user and improve the way in which your business is perceived.

Local Community involvement
For Alara the zero waste policy has allowed us to interact with the local community in several ways. As part of the project we have created a garden on wasteland behind the factory, this helps us dispose of food waste as compost and grow food for the canteen.

Saving money
A key money saver has been food waste. We now have special red bins for all food waste in the factory where previously spillages just went into the wheelie bin with other waste. Now it is segregated and seen everyone is much more careful about spillages etc and waste food has reduced from 25250Kg to approx 100Kg a week, saving about £7,500 PA. Another has been council collections. We were spending £20 per day and we now spend nothing!

"Zero waste is practical for me and means nothing goes to landfill and nothing to incinerate from the entire company."
Alex Smith, Managing Director

Natural Health, Barnet

Natural Health is a small independent family run business which has been selling vitamins, minerals, health food products, organic produce and environmentally friendly products for 30 years.  In order to reduce the amount of waste that the shop has to deal with, owner Jay Thankey has implemented the following practices:

  • Only print a till receipt if the customer needs one
  • Offer customers a discount when they return empty supplement bottles so that they can be reused
  • Reuse cardboard boxes that our products come in to pack internet orders
  • Ask suppliers to collect packaging from the previous order when they deliver to us
  • Stock large quantities of cleaning products so that customers can bring their own bottles to refill at a reduced rate
  • Keep a small stock of used carrier bags for customers who do not have their own bag

“We must reuse and recycle everything we can and make it easy for our customers to do these things too.”
Jay Thankey, Owner

Wholefood Heaven, Camden

On setting up Wholefood Heaven, a new vegetarian catering business, husband and wife team David and Charlotte Bailey aimed to be as sustainable as possible. The Camden-based business caters for all kinds of occasions and also runs a van which they take to food markets across London selling vegetarian meals to take away.

Re-use
From the start, Wholefood Heaven tried to use as much second hand kitchen equipment as possible, not only to reduce waste, but with the added bonus of supporting the vintage feel of the business and saving a great deal of money. This even extends to their mobile catering van which is an old restored Citroen H.

Waste minimisation
As the business developed, finding ways to manage waste efficiently soon became a priority. David and Charlotte found the following actions very effective:

  • Not leaving cutlery and serviettes out for customers to help themselves, but asking whether they need any.
  • Offering only one serviette - which has reduced the amount used by about 30%.
  • Asking before handing over a bag.
  • Using fold up food boxes instead of containers with separate lids, which saves on packaging - customers really love these too!
  • Buying ingredients in bulk.
  • Returning packaging to suppliers for refilling with new stock.
  • Using refillable containers for sauces and condiments.

Reducing food waste
Wholefood Heaven used to offer a variety of dishes from their mobile catering van, but found that there was a fair amount of waste as they couldn’t always gauge which dishes would prove popular. They got their food waste down to almost nothing by specialising in doing one dish really well, rather than having a big menu. This has been very effective in terms of waste management and has also cut down preparation time. Charlotte explained that they have developed dishes where they can cook more on site if they start to run out. This has greatly reduced the amount of food wasted at the end of the day. If they do have any food leftover, there are usually staff or other traders who appreciate being given a box of food and Charlotte and David are always really happy to do this.

“There is nothing more depressing than throwing food away and for us, managing waste saves us time and money and keeps us in line with the spirit in which we started the business.”
Charlotte Bailey, Co-founder

My Coffee Stop, Enfield

Gunter Hollenstein and Karen Mercer have been running My Coffee Stop at Enfield Chase station since February 2009. In the true spirit of reuse, the coffee shop is located in an old waiting room on the station platform, which is just the right size to serve Fairtrade drinks and snacks as well as house a couple of comfy sofas and some shelves full of second hand books.

Although the coffee shop is a small, family-run business, Gunter and Karen have implemented a number of waste prevention initiatives.

Book swap service
Customers donate a book they have finished reading and/or take one away to read on their journey and just put a donation in a collection tin for local charity Chickenshed Theatre. Gunter and Karen are proud of the fact that this initiative has not cost them a penny, but has enhanced the community feel of the business dramatically and even won them awards, generating free publicity in the local press.

Re-use
Gunter and Karen quickly realised that reuse was the best method of all to reduce waste and save the business money. The coffee shop’s disposable cups are 100% biodegradable, recyclable and made from recycled material, but they knew that reusing cups and other materials would be better still, and so they implemented the following practices:

  • Customers that use their own travel mug get a discount on their drink
  • Used takeaway cups are donated to local schools, such as Eversley Primary School, for use in art projects
  • They contribute to the upkeep of the station by donating used coffee grounds to the gardener for feeding the plants. A few regular customers also take them home for use in their gardens
  • Scrap paper is used to jot down orders
  • Containers e.g. jars and boxes are used to store things in the coffee shop
  • Cardboard boxes from coffee deliveries are given to station staff who use them to post parcels, or to move house!

Minimal paper and printing
My Coffee Stop is totally committed to minimising the amount of paper it produces in the first place. Karen uses facebook, Twitter and YouTube to promote the business and engage directly with her customers. Use of social networking sites has saved the business hundreds of pounds and through electronic marketing they have made profitable links with other local businesses. The only new paper currently used by the shop is a small business card which doubles up as a loyalty card and a special offer voucher.

Although My Coffee Stop has successfully reduced the waste generated by the business, both Gunter and Karen aspire to reduce it further. They will continue their campaign to increase the number of customers that use their own travel mugs and they would like to connect with local artists so that instead of recycling their waste, it can be used in a more imaginative way to create beautiful sculptures instead!

“I’ve lived in Enfield all my life and seen a lot of small businesses come and go, but I love My Coffee Stop for its true community feel. I actually use Twitter to order my soya latte so that it’s ready for me on my regular commute from the station!”
Anna Krahn, Customer

The Castle Climbing Centre, Hackney

The Castle is an indoor climbing centre in Hackney employing 45 people. The building, a magnificent Victorian water pumping station, is being reused to accommodate climbing space, a climbing shop and a cafe.

In 2009, The Castle implemented an environmental policy and set the ambitious target of becoming zero waste by 2015. They went through their rubbish and recycling bags to see exactly what was being wasted. Once they had a clearer picture, the centre made simple changes and reduced their rubbish collection from two bins per week to just one. This halved the cost of collection charges.

The Castle made the following changes:

Prevention

  • Stopped selling Lucozade in bottles and instead sell Lucozade powder for use with re-usable bottles
  • Started to monitor the amount of printing in the office and keep it to a minimum. Staff are encouraged to reuse scraps of paper and collect packaging to be reused
  • The climbing shop introduced a ‘no plastic bag’ policy and sells reusable cotton bags instead

Re-use

  • Changed milk delivery in plastic bottles to washable glass bottles and sourced juice from the same dairy
  • Serve all food and drinks in re-usable crockery, instead of disposable plates and cups
  • Started selling re-usable water bottles instead of bottled water and modified water fountains to make them easier to refill bottles
  • Use tea towels instead of blue roll so they can be washed and reused
  • Set up a freecycle account to donate retired equipment to community and arts projects. In 2009, a local artist made new chairs from the centre’s old climbing rope
  • Developed an organic, edible community garden. This has enabled use of home grown produce in The Castle Café meals, reduced the amount of packaging waste and saved money. The garden is also an ideal place to reuse a lot of materials including wood, cardboard and, of course, the compost produced on site.

Audrey from The Castle is proud of how much they have done to reduce their environmental impact but says that one of the hardest things for any business with good intentions is getting staff and customers to change their behaviour. She advises that it is essential to make the process of separating waste very easy for people, and to provide constant reminders.

“We found that by not having rubbish bins on their own we were able to get customers to help us reach our goal ofminimising waste. Instead, we have 4 ‘waste stations’ with clear instructions for which items can be reused or recycled, and what must be disposed of."

‘’Reuse is the best way for us to keep our waste to a minimum. Not only do we serve all food and drinks in re-usable crockery, we sell re-useable water bottles instead of bottled water, have our milk and juice delivered in washable glass bottles and find lots of uses for all kinds of ‘waste’ materials in the garden’’
Audrey Seguy, Managing Director

The Duke of Cambridge, Islington

The Duke of Cambridge is a popular organic pub in the Angel area of Islington. The business, which opened in 1998, has always placed an emphasis on efficient waste management and only uses suppliers who share their efforts to minimise waste. The pub is proof that good environmental practice and a strong reputation as a quality food and drink establishment can go hand in hand. Most importantly, they have a strong customer base that fully supports this.

From day one they recycled their glass, paper and cardboard and chose an energy supplier that could provide electricity from renewable sources, namely wind and solar. They used reclaimed building materials and second hand furniture instead of buying new. Buying second hand reduces the demand for new consumable items and extends the life span of items that are otherwise considered to be at the end of their shelf life.

One of their initial aims was to source local, seasonal and organic produce. They bought from small, independent local suppliers to support the community and reduce travelling distance of the produce. They bought goods with little or no packaging. This reduced both the amount of waste produced and subsequent disposal costs to the business.

Today the pub is a huge success with continued support from the local community. They recycle more materials than ever before, including corks, tetra packs, additional plastics, food waste and used vegetable oil. Even hazardous waste that can be very harmful to the environment, like batteries, light bulbs and computer equipment, is recycled. Placing water-saving devices in the cisterns has also reduced water usage.

They have a strict food policy, supporting organisations such as Fairtrade. They do not buy produce whose industries have harmful effects on the environment, particularly on marine stocks, and follow the Marine Conservation Society’s guidelines when buying fish.
In recognition of their long and sustained work to achieve their original goals they are the only organic pub in Britain to be certified by the Soil Association.

“Why do it? I believe business has a duty to act responsibly. Beyond that it makes the smartest marketing sense, saves money and creates fantastic team loyalty.”
Geetie Singh, Founder & Managing Director

Grove Café, Waltham Forest

Grove Café, which opened in 2002, is a small catering firm based in Waltham Forest. Most of the customer base is from the 40 small business units that surround the café. They provide breakfasts and lunches to local business staff and the general public. In the evenings they open as a Latino restaurant and dance venue.

Owner Franc encourages his small team to be careful with resources in order to save money and reduce waste. He knows many of his regular customers who work near by, so he serves them food and drinks in reusable plates and mugs which they can return later.

Other ways in which Franc has found to run a ‘green’ business include:

  • sourcing all fruit and vegetables locally, and on foot!
  • reusing food packaging and containers to store prepared food (labelled carefully!)
  • reusing plastic bags from suppliers to give out with takeaway orders
  • reusing small cardboard boxes to package large food orders
  • keeping paper serviettes behind counter to give out when customers ask
  • making sure every effort is made to reduce energy use
  • buying sauces and condiments in bulk and re-filling small containers
  • recycling all cardboard, paper, glass and plastic bottles
  • having waste cooking oil collected by a local company who take it to be blended for use as biodiesel

Being a food business, minimising food waste is top of the agenda at Grove Café. Wasting food would reduce their profits. Franc has found that the best way to ensure there is no food waste is to buy fresh food daily.

“I go to the market every morning, and only buy what I need for that day. If I have tomatoes left over from the day before, I know I don’t need to buy any. For me, this is the best way to minimise food waste and keep control of my budget.”
Franc Escudero, Owner

The Hornbeam, Waltham Forest

The Hornbeam is organised and run by its users.  The centre employs four members of staff and has seven volunteers.  It provides:

  • a community café serving vegetarian food
  • a base for local food and environmental education projects
  • a space for people to find out what’s going on locally and how to get involved

The centre has a zero waste policy and reuses as much ‘waste’ material as possible.  Anything that can’t be reused is recycled - even paper hand towels.  This creates a huge saving on waste collection bills.

In order to reduce waste, The Hornbeam:

  • never sells bottled water (and are a member of tapwater.org offering free tap water to everyone)
  • uses reusable china plates and mugs and metal cutlery
  • doesn't give out disposable items except cardboard cartons for take-away food (which are recyclable)
  • offers a re-fill service of environmentally friendly cleaning fluids to customers who bring their own bottles to reuse
  • buys most ingredients in bulk (to minimise packaging and save costs on ingredients and delivery)
  • splits all café food waste so that cooked waste goes into a wormery and the rest for composting at OrganicLea's food growing site
  • reduces e-waste by using old PCs and pairing them with the resource-light Ubuntu operating system instead of traditional Windows software

Staff at the Hornbeam have gained a lot of experience by working to reduce waste which they pass on to other groups who use the centre.  Communicating their zero waste policy and keeping everyone informed of actions they are taking to run a ‘green’ business has lead to a great relationship with their local community.

The Hornbeam’s development worker, Paul Gasson, says that customers appreciate an organisation which applies recycling standards similar to the ones they use in their own homes, adding:

“We are proud of our zero waste policy which we apply across the whole centre to reduce waste in every aspect of our business.  Hopefully what we do inspires our customers, helping them to realise that they can easily reduce waste too.”
Paul Gasson, Development Worker