Responsible waste management – The P & M Group’s commitment to reduction, reuse and recycling
We are in the midst of a waste crisis and the rubbish we generate has a devastating environmental impact. The P & M Group is passionate about supporting the triple bottom line and developing a robust waste management reduction plan is at the heart of our sustainability strategy. Over the last few months, we have been collaborating with upstream and downstream supply chain partners to minimise waste generation and promote recycling and reuse. At the same time, we are supporting community groups working to address the waste challenge.
In 2020, 12.7 million tonnes of municipal waste went to landfill in the UK and although pressure is mounting to support circularity, our recycling rate remains below 50%. UK statistics on waste – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) Be it fuelling climate change through increased greenhouse gas emissions, harming wildlife, or polluting precious ecosystems, waste has catastrophic consequences for the natural world.
We are particularly concerned about the impact plastic waste has on the environment. When plastic items are discarded, many of them find their way into water systems. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that every year, eight million tonnes of plastic is consigned to our oceans, the vast majority of which is single use items.
Animals can get trapped in plastic waste or mistake it for food, which often leads to a death sentence for a wide range of species. As a durable material, it takes a very long time to degrade, and leaves a lasting legacy for aquatic life. It is gradually broken down into smaller fragments and micro plastics are now found in the planet’s most remote regions, infiltrating the food chain and causing irrevocable harm to species and habitats.
The P & M Group’s last Sustainability Survey highlighted the importance of tackling the issue for our staff. When asked to rank what effects of climate change they were most concerned about, the deteriorating ocean environment came out on top.
TV programmes like The Blue Planet have helped raise awareness of the issue and people can see for themselves the impact that poor waste management is having on the marine environment. One employee said she was recently on holiday and found a Coca-Cola bottle on the beach that was manufactured in 2014. According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, University of Oxford, University of Leeds, and Common Seas, the volume of plastic entering the ocean could nearly triple in the next two decades, meaning that by 2050, there might be more plastic than fish.
For Zero Waste Week 2023 The P & M Group decided to play our part in tackling the issue by raising money for local Community Interest Company (CIC) Beach Guardians. In September, we marked the event by organising a group cake sale, raising much needed funds which will go towards helping the CIC continue its invaluable work organising community beach cleans and running workshops to educate people about the importance of protecting nature. Over the last three years Beach Guardians has coordinated 4,449 volunteer hours and engaged with 12,000 pupils. We are proud to support their efforts in tackling the scourge of plastic pollution and will continue to support the Beach Guardians and charities like them.
Individuals and businesses alike need to change mindsets when it comes to waste. The Take – Make – Discard model is broken, and we must do more to promote resource efficiency. That starts with designing out waste from manufacturing and as a group we are starting to explore how we can address the challenge through our design processes.
The next priority is to find ways of supporting the circular economy by keeping resources in the value chain. We recently supplied 22 broken pallets from our ISD Solutions factory to our neighbour Gloucestershire College. Their carpentry students were involved in an inspiring upcycling project, and they gave the pallets a new lease of life by transforming them into tables and vegetable boxes.
As part of that stakeholder collaboration, The P & M Group has selected Allstone as our primary waste management partner. The recycling expert is aligned with our sustainability vision and values and will help us on the road to realising our Zero to Landfill vision. Allstone operates a large aggregates recycling facility and waste transfer station in Gloucester and works with a national network of suppliers who support us on other projects across the UK. In the last calendar year, they processed 33.8 tonnes of our waste, with all but 57 kilogrammes being recycled or sent for energy production.
Supply chain collaboration
It is on our Sustainability Road Map (see our strategy report, available to download here) to identify ways of minimising waste. As a group we are making a concerted effort to work with as many stakeholders as possible to optimise opportunities to reuse and recycle.
We were recently working on a major project which involved receiving large quantities of polystyrene blocks as part of the product packaging from one of our specialist suppliers. Whilst they are working towards more sustainable packaging solutions, they were delighted to support our efforts to minimise waste by taking the blocks back for reuse.
We want to extend that type of collaboration and are engaging with two of our biggest suppliers on improving the recyclability of packaging and exploring the possibility of developing take back schemes. Similarly, we have participated in a Zero Waste Challenge with one of our key clients to drive waste reduction and the lessons learnt are feeding into our future strategy.
There is no time to waste in moving waste reduction higher up the corporate agenda and developing more ethical and responsible working practices. At The P & M Group, we are up for the challenge and are excited about how innovative thinking and collaborative working around waste will help us meet our sustainability goals. This includes looking at our own product lines, which we will be talking about later this year.