A busy Northampton retail and leisure centre has achieved a major recycling success story by streamlining the way food waste from its restaurants and cafés is managed.
In the last 12 months, Rushden Lakes Retail Park’s food and beverage outlets have cut waste vehicle collections by over 90%, more than doubled overall recycling rates and achieved zero waste to landfill.
It comes after Grundon took over managing waste and recycling for the centre’s 26 food and beverage outlets, including familiar names such as Bill’s, Wildwood and Starbucks.
Previously, each one handled its own bins and waste collections with a variety of different suppliers, often resulting in as many as six or seven refuse collections every single day, with very little recycling and most general waste sent to landfill.
Rushden Lakes Retail Park is managed by Savills on behalf of owners The Crown Estates, which has recently set new sustainability goals across its UK-wide property portfolio. In total, Grundon has been appointed to provide waste management services across 15 of its different locations.
Sustainability champion and Site Centre Administrator, Jamie Denney is part of the Savills team. He explains: “What makes us very different from every other site is our connection to the nature reserve, and that comes with its own set of challenges.
“We have to be very careful not to let nature come to us to take any food which is left behind.
“Having Grundon on board has given us more control of food waste from the restaurants and cafés, we can manage it more effectively and to the standards that need to be achieved.”
Sustainability champion and Site Centre Administrator, Rushden Lakes
Grundon already collected waste from the retail park’s litter bins and expanded its portfolio to include waste management services for the on-site restaurants and cafés in April 2022.
Since then, the first 10 months up to January 2023, achievements included:
One such restaurant, Wildwood, is a big fan of recycling. “We used to have our own waste collections and set days, for example, for glass we had three or four collections a week and during busy periods we sometimes had to arrange extra collections,” said a spokesperson.
“We never used to recycle, everything went into one bin, but now it’s much easier. It was quite hard to start with on food waste because we have a lot of food preparation in the mornings, but now we’re on a roll with putting things in separate food bins and it helps to reduce waste as well.
“Loads of our deliveries come in cardboard boxes, so now we recycle the cardboard too and at night, everything is bagged up and goes to the bins outside.”
Thousands of kgs of cardboard are segregated and sent for recycling: pictured (l-r) Jamie Denney, Alan Rademaker and James Luckett
An electric tug is used to take full containers from ‘bin alley’ to the service yard
All the Grundon bins are clearly labelled
To uphold best practice in engaging tenants with the new waste operations, new clearly-marked and colour-coded bins were installed in ‘bin alley’ – the area at the back of the restaurant and café areas – and compactors, balers and skips installed in the central service yards. A new electric tug vehicle makes it easier to transfer bins from one area to another.
A waste management site operative, who was taken on to help manage the waste, is responsible for moving the bins and liaising with the restaurants and cafés on a day-to-day basis.
He says waste management education is an ongoing process: “The tenants bring their waste out to the bins, then I take the full ones to the service yard and swap them with empty ones.
“They are gradually getting it right. If there is a problem, we take a photo and it is escalated up through the management team who will have a word to the retailers and explain why it is so important to segregate their waste.”
Jamie Denney continues: “Previously we didn’t have waste colleagues, so the changes have created job opportunities for local people like our new waste management site operative, which we are very pleased about.
“Savills’ KPIs encompass all areas of sustainability, something which is very important to The Crown Estate too, and the data we receive goes directly into our KPIs.
“Being able to divert general waste from landfill is fantastic. You assume that if you put something in a black bin then it can’t be recycled, but obviously working with Grundon means it goes into Energy from Waste and has a second life by producing energy.
“Our Grundon reports show us the recycling rates achieved, the amount of power generated, and the equivalent number of trees saved – it’s quite something when you can actually see the impact you are having.
“We look at trends and causes from the data – for example, our quantity of baled cardboard isn’t high enough to be collected every month and that impacts on our recycling rates – so we can then consider how best to address issues in the future.”
Jamie also manages the retail park’s Savills Insights internal App which goes out to all staff, taking every opportunity to increase awareness around the importance of waste management.
Rushden Lakes has already achieved a silver accreditation under Savills’ own sustainability standards and Jamie is hopeful that a gold accreditation may not be too far away.
“The Crown Estate and Savills knew we had a good track record on environmental improvements and were very clear about the sustainability and waste goals they wanted us to achieve at Rushden Lakes.”
Senior Contract Manager
Grundon’s James Luckett explains: “Prior to us taking over, the food and beverage outlets sent everything to general waste and they all had their own bins and waste management suppliers, so there were a huge number of vehicle journeys and no segregation or recycling to speak of.
“We changed all that and are really pleased with the continuing positive results. The retailers can already see the benefits and the feedback has been excellent.”
Carbon emissions have been further reduced by the fact that Grundon’s waste collection vehicles are all certified CarbonNeutral®, meaning its collections don’t add to customers’ carbon footprint.
Both Rushden Lakes and Grundon also share a passion for wildlife and conservation, each partnering with local wildlife trusts in their respective areas.
For Rushden Lakes, that is the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants, whose visitor centre is situated on one of the boardwalks at the shopping centre overlooking the lake and providing a gateway to the Nene Wetlands.