Responsible Retail Spotlight:
Waste & Recycling

We’re certainly aware that our work has a significant effect on the environment and that as an industry, retail has a throwaway culture that reflects that of fashion and consumable goods. Awareness isn’t enough to make positive changes, so we began an initiative to educate ourselves about how we can make a difference.

To better understand the impact that the retail industry has on the environment, we have engaged the UK Country Manager of Bollegraaf, Trevor Smart, a global leader in manufacturing recycling plants.

Focusing on what happens to retail fixtures at end-of-life, we found that the real insight was in the material ‘make-up’ and construction of the overall fixture. Materials that are bonded or permanently fix dislike components together (i.e laminated boards) cause huge problems in the recycling chain. When it is possible to prepare or separate these materials it can take a huge amount of process and energy, however in most cases it either isn’t possible or local regulation won’t allow it, so the material becomes land fill or is burnt for energy generation.

Constructing fixtures in a way that makes the materials difficult to separate, like gluing or coating, causes a similar problem. If a facility doesn’t have the correct equipment to separate parts into like materials, then the likelihood of items being recycled is slim.

Just these two considerations could dramatically effect our industry, reducing the amount of equipment or material that makes its way to landfill solely due to the recycling process not being considered.

All materials are supplied to factories in industry standard sizes, so as designers, it’s our responsibility to understand this and use this knowledge to drive our design process so that we seek to eliminate waste material.

Waste is produced all across retail design and a simple way of categorising this is as pre-consumer and post-consumer waste. The goal is, of course, to avoid as much of this as possible through good design methodology.

To reduce pre-consumer waste, we now make every effort to use recycled materials across our designs (or virgin materials that we know can be recycled), avoiding materials that are laminated or bonded together.

All materials are supplied to factories in industry standard sizes, so as designers, it’s our responsibility to understand this and use this knowledge to drive our design process so that we seek to eliminate waste material.

Future proofing.

We can design concepts which will live on beyond their intended usage as well. Smart design that allows for new demands and range extensions or adjustments can prolong their life, and in some circumstances it is possible to design for “end-of-life”. To do so means we must ensure we consider key factors; 

• Where is the fixture and who owns it?

• Will retailers have their own recycling process in place?

• What lifespan has been designed into the fixture?

• Will anyone want to retain or reuse any elements?

• What regulations or legislation exist in a particular maket?

• Who is expected to break down the fixture before recycling?

Can I have some more?

Hand touching reprocessed material board

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