Ulrik Lolk, in charge of goods not for resale at Dansk Supermarked, has been along for a substantial part of the recycling journey with Stena Recycling over the past 20 years. He has followed developments and seen how the company has shifted from more practical, price-oriented waste management to the current situation, with Denmark’s biggest retail group setting ambitious CSR targets.
Stena Recycling wants to be an important part of development towards a more sustainable society. We can achieve this through proactive strategies, innovative solutions and by continuing to create value for customers via our expertise, partnerships and adapted customer solutions that ensure sustainable business operations.
Stena Recycling’s partnership with Dansk Supermarked is based on the same values. For more than 20 years, Stena Recycling has been developing effective solutions for Dansk Supermarked to optimize their waste management and to streamline the recycling of more than 40,000 metric tons of cardboard and plastic each year. This is a stable and sensible partnership based on mutual trust, transparency and open dialog.
“The lengthy partnership has gone smoothly and has freed up time and resources for increasing our earnings,” says Ulrik Lolk. “The management team at Dansk Supermarked has changed course and the focus is no longer solely on profits and savings. Today, we have a clear CSR strategy and an ambitious target of increasing our recycling percentage to 90% by as early as 2018. It is here that the partnership with Stena Recycling has evolved in new directions, with new and innovative solutions that will help the company to reach its goals.”
Stena Recycling has accomplished this by always being available and by making it possible to measure the quantity of recycling and test more recycling options. The data produced has become more and more valuable for Dansk Supermarked, with its increased focus on CSR over the past few years.
There are many challenges in retail trade. On the one hand, the tangible daily challenges of dealing with the enormous quantities of different types of waste, the strict legal requirements, logistics limitations as well as the more human aspects. And on the other hand, the challenges of a growing population, urbanization, increased energy requirements and rising consumption, all of which affect business operations. One of the biggest challenges in retail trade is the sizeable turnover in personnel.
In Denmark alone, Dansk Supermarked has more than 40,000 employees and employee turnover of around 30% a year. For this reason, Ulrik Lolk believes that the future lies in mechanical sorting instead of manual sorting. In addition, the retail trade is struggling with a lack of space, which makes it a challenging for both Dansk Supermarked and Stena Recycling to find a flexible solution that suits everyone.
Junior buyer Tobias Bach Nielsen tells us that cardboard and plastics are easy to deal with, because these fractions can easily be converted into a value. There is a lack of ideas regarding the fractions that cannot immediately generate revenue. “The challenge will be in sorting byproducts. We are facing the same challenges as individuals who need to sort all their waste into different bins.”
This places enormous demands on solutions from Stena Recycling. The solutions need to work in practice and be flexible so that they can be applied in both superstores and in smaller retail outlets.
“We are eager to get new ideas for recycling of the smaller waste fractions,” says Tobias Bach Nielsen.
Stena Recycling’s biggest impact on the environment is transport. But with advanced transport systems and the constant development of logistics solutions, we are contributing to reducing environmental impact. Stena Recycling is focusing on reducing transports and is working continuously on sending as much cardboard as possible directly to factories instead of collecting it at various sites around the country. This provides Dansk Supermarked with clear savings and helps the company to contribute to lowering CO2 emissions.
In Sweden, Stena Recycling owns a large number of railroad cars, which is unique in the industry. This means that many waste transports with trucks can be replaced with transports with trains. In Sweden, this has meant that more than 30,000 truck transports have been replaced by train transports. Dansk Supermarked can now ship its cardboard by train. This has contributed to decreasing truck transport volumes from 27.5 metric tons to 25. That is to say, for every ten trucks, one is no longer needed, and Dansk Supermarked is thereby contributing to lowering CO2 emissions.
Consumers are making more and more demands regarding animal welfare, foodstuff production and food waste. And new areas for improvements, such as in packaging waste, are gaining attention in retail trade. The number of layers of plastic and cardboard in packaging is no longer unimportant. With this in mind, Dansk Supermarked is anticipating reductions in packaging and for products such as expanded polystyrene being entirely omitted. There is growing focus on the circular economy among many consumers, and this means that all large companies are now being compelled to present their triple bottom lines. (Triple bottom line is an accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental and financial.)
“You need to clearly show what you’re striving for. And this is something Dansk Supermarked takes very seriously. If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” says Tobias Bach Nielsen.
Many companies are preoccupied just now with how they utilize new data and knowledge. This creates a change in attitude both in-house at the companies as well as among the general population. To get there, clear goals for the future are necessary. Dansk Supermarked decided that the recycling percentage for Denmark should be 90% by 2018. The recycling percentage is an expression of the degree of recycling Dansk Supermarked wants for its total waste volumes. We call this “from waste to resource”. The fractions can become raw materials in another company’s production processes (circular economy), or parts of the fraction can be sorted, removed and recycled as new resources.
Previously, waste management was purely a necessary activity for Dansk Supermarked, but since 2014 they have also been working on the softer values. Recycling can be measured, and this gives the company clear documentation of its actions.
“We want to double-check the good results before they are published,” says Ulrik Lolk. “So this kind of documentation is really valuable for us. The CSR element is gaining a foothold everywhere, including at Dansk Supermarked. Stena Recycling can play an even bigger role here in the future. No one predict the future, but when we share our experiences and expertise in the field, we will find the solutions necessary in order to reach our goals.”.
Dansk Supermarked is Denmark’s biggest retail group with 51,000 employees in several countries and with customer interactions equivalent to 11 million visits a week. The group has nearly 1,400 stores in the following chains: Føtex, Bilka, Netto and Salling in Denmark, and Netto in Sweden, Germany, Poland and the UK. As one of the country’s biggest companies, Dansk Supermarked has a unique social responsibility that it takes extremely seriously.