When it comes to producing waste, the festive season is one of the most prominent periods, with the amount generated increasing by 30% compared to the rest of the year.
This is especially true for retail businesses, as you’ll more than likely have more stock coming in for clamouring customers, in turn leaving you with mountains of boxes and leftover stock that could go to waste.
So, what can be done to ensure you are conscious and aware of the waste we accumulate around the festive period? Nathan Gray, head of sustainability at Reconomy, looks at some of the key considerations for keeping it to a minimum.
Learn from your history
Overestimating the amount of stock needed can produce a lot of waste in terms of plastics and food ending up in landfills, as well as creating havoc in warehouses with unsold stock lining shelves.
Unsold stock also contributes to businesses taking a huge loss in revenue on top of this, with experts stating that ‘UK retail plc’ could be facing a deficit of up to £2.8 billion in unsold and excess stock.
This can be avoided by preparing your business for the season by first looking back over previous years. Having your operations team consult your books and analyse your sales data can help to give you an idea of how much you sold previously – to give you an advantage before the Christmas rush rolls around.
From there, you can create a plan on how much stock to produce, or order, to avoid having an overwhelming amount of waste. This can involve looking at industry and market trends to see estimates on interest in your product and comparing that to how much you’ve sold in previous years. This way, you can provide an accurate scope for how your preparation should line up this year.
Make paper & plastic a thing of the past
Paper and plastic are two of the biggest contributors to global waste. And with so many toys and presents around Christmas being produced using non-biodegradable materials like polymers and plastics, the Wildlife and Countryside Link has estimated that 114,000 tonnes of plastic is likely to become waste this season.
In addition, paper waste doesn’t just come from the wrapping paper used to dress up these gifts, it can come from businesses using paper processes in their admin. To avoid using as much, looking into digitising these processes where possible to reduce the amount of paper used can have a positive effect.
Sometimes it’s unavoidable to use anything other than plastic for packaging and shipping purposes, as it’s strong and reliable. However, where you can, implementing sustainable and recyclable materials can significantly reduce the amount of waste created by your business and products.
Offer a festive buy-back scheme
Repeat customers of your business may have older products you’ve released that have become out-dated over time. There’s various ways to inspire customer retention and loyalty while also showing consideration for a more sustainable and cyclical approach to products.
This could be as simple as customers bringing their previous items with receipts into your stores and outlets to receive store credit or a discount on any items purchased. This could be especially prevalent around Christmas, as customers will be looking at ways to save money and feel less retail guilt.
Large global brands like IKEA have begun to incorporate these ideals into their operations to contribute to a more sustainable future and also offer store credit to those who participate.
In the grander scheme of things, this also means that once these products have been brought in and bought back, they can be disposed of correctly by taking them through your waste system. This way they’re more likely to be correctly recycled rather than becoming the latest addition to a landfill. Similarly, these items could also have the potential to be repurposed, which further reduces waste accumulated.
No matter what your business retails, waste management should always be high on your list of priorities. You may already have processes in place to appropriately deal with any waste that you produce, but laying out what your policies are for recycling will help to create a more sustainable future for your business.
This may be a big conversation to have around the festive period with how busy everything gets, but making sure your processes are clear cut and refined can be the difference maker for the future.
Nathan Gray, head of sustainability, Reconomy