It sometimes seems that waste is an inescapable by-product of our everyday living – whether it’s yesterday’s newspaper, an empty milk bottle or furnishings gone past their best. Nonetheless, it’s worrying that on average in the UK, a person throws away their body weight in rubbish every seven weeks while our country’s annual waste is equivalent to the weight of 100 million small cars*. Waste isn’t however just a UK problem, it’s a global one likely to intensify as the world’s population and production grows – increasing the impact of waste on the environment and stressing our natural resources.
While some waste is inevitable, I believe we all have an important responsibility to ensure the environment is safeguarded by reducing, re-using and recycling as much waste as we can in order to limit the amount sent to landfill.
Here at Centrica, this is exactly what we aim to achieve. We are committed to understanding and putting in place effective policies, management systems and targets that will improve our performance on waste throughout our business. Central to this is working closely with our people, partners and suppliers to make these goals a reality. Today, I wanted to share with you some of the activities we have undertaken to limit the impact of our waste.
Reducing wasteat our UK offices
Over the last six years, we have set annual waste targets including reduction and recycling targets at our 18 main UK offices. This year, we have continued to reduce the overall level of waste generated but it is unlikely we will reach our ambitious 7.5% reduction target and consequently, we will need to analyse performance and introduce best practices from higher performing areas to weaker sites, in order to strengthen reductions in 2015 and beyond. We have also maintained increases in recycling and are currently achieving a 79% recycling rate at our main offices, well ahead of our 72% target and up from 64% in 2008. And I’m proud to say that we are meeting our zero landfill target for offices and have a 99% recycling rate at our National Distribution Centre, which is particularly impressive given the high volumes of packaging from products and parts that are later distributed to our British Gas engineers up and down the UK.
At our National Distribution Centre
Lowering waste upstream
The amount and type of waste varies significantly at our gas production and energy generation sites depending on the status of operation, but nonetheless, we strive to control and limit the amount of waste generated at all times.
At our offshore gas and oil platforms in the Netherlands for example, our Environmental Improvement Plan for 2014-2020, goes beyond legal waste compliance by committing us to a 10% waste reduction target which we are making steady progress towards. This is a big commitment because as the platforms age, more waste is generated from maintenance work undertaken. There are a number of activities underway to ensure the target is met such as raising awareness of waste reduction and segregation with our people as well as decreasing packaging taken offshore.
We also create Waste Management Plans for new drilling sites, such as at our exploration well we have just started drilling in the North Atlantic. The Plan presents an overview of the four different kinds of waste; industrial waste (e.g. paper and glass), hazardous waste (e.g. paint and oil rags), wet bulk waste and cuttings (e.g. water based mud contaminated with oil), alongside the responsible parties at each of the different stages of drilling to ensure all waste types are reduced and handled effectively. The plan is communicated to the well operator, our people and suppliers onshore as well as in safety meetings offshore.
So how do we reduce and manage our waste?
Below are four key ways in which we proactively mitigate the impact of our waste on the environment:
- Reducing – generating less waste by helping partners and suppliers redesign and cut packaging while stimulating behaviour change with our people to use less, such as printing only when it’s necessary.
- Re-using –making sure items can be used again rather than throwing them away, such as delivery boxes re-used for storage and employee house-moving as well as donating old office furniture to charities.
- Recovery– ensuring recycling is easy by engaging our people and partners in activities and challenges that increase awareness, improving recycling bin signage and implementing food waste collections at all of our main sites for composting. Residual waste that can’t be sent for recycling goes to recovery options such as ‘Energy from Waste’ (EfW) plants, where the waste is used to generate electricity and powers local homes and businesses.
- Disposal - meeting our target to send zero waste to landfill at our main offices and ensuring that wet bulk waste which cannot be discharged to the marine environment following treatment, is returned to shore for further treatment and disposal.
As you can see, we are fully committed to effective waste management which will support the transition to a more resource-efficient society.