How good are Swedish stores at waste management and recycling? - News room



The level of knowledge surrounding waste management and recycling is growing among store staff and retailers. In addition, there are many chains of stores that now have central directives for waste management and recycling. This is important for several reasons, in part because we are able to build a more sustainable society, but also because this helps to cut down on time, space and transports, not to mention protecting the health of staff in the store by giving them better means to handle waste. But there are still things left to do…

We have spoken with three people, who are responsible for waste management in three types of stores, from a small grocery store to one of the biggest department stores in the world. We asked them how they tackle waste management and recycling in their businesses on a day-to-day basis.

Magnus Thor_Hemkop_Vrigstad_portrait

Magnus Thor, Store Manager, Hemköp Supermarket in Sweden:

The Hemköp store in Vrigstad is the only one in the area and it has a loyal customer base. Sales amount to approximately 40 million SEK a year. As the store has grown quickly over the years, so has the volume of waste to handle.

“We used to have a container where we threw more or less all our general waste. We have made significant improvements since then and do what we can to compact and recycle as much of our waste as possible.”

“This is primarily the case for cardboard, plastic and food waste. The main part of our waste is  cardboard. We send it to recycling and this generates an income for us. Although we have had a baler for quite some time, we have recently upgraded to a new one with greater capacity. It enables us to cut down on the time staff spend dealing with waste, as well as cutting down considerably on transports.”

“In addition, we have arranged for a number of local farmers to come and collect our fruit waste, which they can use to feed the animals – a win-win for both parties. Nevertheless, we still use our mixed container for some general waste, and I believe we could do better at sorting what we throw in there. We could probably go even further than that, but I think we do a good job with the resources we have.”

Johan Ekenberg_Retailer_ICA_portrait

Johan Ekenberg, Retailer, ICA Supermarket “Olskroken” in Sweden:

ICA Supermarket Olskroken is located in central Gothenburg. Sixty people work in the store, which turns over around 175 million SEK a year.

“Waste management is a natural part of our employees’ day-to-day work. We have around ten recycling fractions, including cardboard, plastic film, transparent and colored glass and compost. The plastic wrapped around pallets and boxes is sent back with the ICA delivery truck to be turned into plastic boxes. We handle 140 ton of cardboard a year, which corresponds to around 80 percent of all our waste.”

“If we did not have compaction equipment to do the hard work for us, the situation would be untenable and the warehouse would be swamped. We have upgraded the machine as we have grown. Our briquette press compacts the boxes and packaging into briquettes, which we get paid for.”

“Our waste management is in line with the ICA environmental store concept. We are accredited and have been tested in accordance with the specific requirements of the concept, which include waste management and recycling. In addition, these requirements cover efficient energy use, stocking a wide range of environmentally adapted products and avoiding the use of unnecessary chemicals.”

Inge Nilsson GeKås_portrait

Inge Nilsson, Waste & Environment Manager, Gekås Superstore in Sweden:

Gekås in Ullared is one of Sweden’s most popular places to visit and is thought to be the world’s largest department store of its kind. A department store with 4.8 million customers and sales of 5.3 billion SEK a year certainly generates a lot of waste.

“Cardboard and soft plastic account for the majority of our waste and we compact and recycle 3,000 ton of cardboard every year! We have great a number of waste compaction machines to assist in the waste management and I take an active and systematic approach to optimizing our preventative maintenance efforts.”

“We use balers for pressing and recycling plastic wrapping and briquette presses to compact boxes into briquettes. We find that these machines are essential for our business. Any interruption results in huge problems in the warehouse.”

“We work actively with our supplier to continuously optimize our waste flows, as well as to optimize space when transporting waste, to ensure cost-effectiveness. The smarter we are in our waste handling, the better. Cardboard and soft plastics are in demand in the recycling market, so our recycling of these materials provides us with a considerable revenue.”

Consumer pressure is making a green profile increasingly important

Generally speaking, many stores seem to be quite good at compacting and recycling their waste. Awareness is increasing and consumer pressure is making a green environmental profile increasingly important. There is still a lot to do and too many stores continue to rely on a mixed waste containers for all their waste. It is time for a change if these stores are to keep up with the competition and stay attractive to their customers. Contact an expert at Orwak and we will help you improve and streamline your waste management and recycling.