Retail Sector (Energy Efficiency)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 10th March 2015.

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Photo of Angus MacDonald Angus MacDonald Scottish National Party

I thank Graeme Dey for bringing this motion to the chamber and for highlighting the efforts that Scotland’s retailers have made in reducing their environmental impact.

Clearly, our ultimate aim is zero waste to landfill and, since 2005, when the baseline was set, signatories to the Scottish Retail Consortium’s “A Better Retailing Climate” report have exceeded all their targets. Graeme Dey has given some figures already, but he did not cover the fact that absolute carbon emissions from stores and transport have reduced by 13 per cent; that carbon emissions from stores have reduced by 30 per cent, relative to growth; that emissions to air from escaped refrigeration gases have reduced by 47 per cent, relative to growth; and that energy-related carbon emissions from store deliveries have reduced by 34 per cent, relative to growth.

I am glad to say that there are good examples of those achievements locally in my Falkirk East constituency, as we are lucky enough to have Asda’s Scottish distribution network operating out of Falkirk. Asda’s Falkirk recycling centre handles the waste from all 60 of its stores in Scotland. Asda trucks take waste back from the stores after dropping off their deliveries, which significantly cuts back road miles, saves fuel and costs and reduces pollution.

Every year, Asda’s Falkirk centre recycles more than 20,000 tonnes of card and plastic. It also uses a rainwater harvesting system, which has reduced water usage by a third. In addition, the Asda distribution centre in Falkirk is a strong supporter of the FareShare initiative, with all the surplus food that arises in the Falkirk distribution centre being redistributed to good causes across Scotland through FareShare. Surplus food arises when suppliers send large retailers such as Asda too much of a particular product or when goods are damaged in transit. The partnership is the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom grocery sector and offers a simple and practical way for Asda to turn an environmental problem into a real benefit for communities.

In the past year, Asda in Scotland has donated the equivalent of 265,000 meals to more than 140 good causes and has prevented hundreds of tonnes of good food from going to waste. It is now collecting its suppliers’ production food waste and delivering it to Falkirk to be redistributed, along with its own surplus food, to FareShare, with Asda covering the cost of transportation and investing £100,000 to grow the capacity of the FareShare depots in Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

It is also worth highlighting that none of Asda’s stores sends food to landfill as waste. If it is still good quality, it is given to charity; if not, it is sent back to Falkirk to be processed via anaerobic digestion.

Asda has made changes to its distribution network, such as using new double-decker lorry trailers. Its vehicles now travel 18 million fewer road miles than they did in 2005, and it has reduced its transport emissions by 60 per cent. Its double-decker trailers save it around 2 million road miles every year by doubling the amount that can be carried on each journey. As a result, Asda has been awarded the Institute of Grocery Distribution’s sustainable distribution award.

Asda in Falkirk is doing its bit and leading by example. Other large retailers have much to be proud of when it comes to aiming for a zero-waste society.

We all must lead by example. It is encouraging that large retailers are now considering the entire life cycle of the products that they sell and exploring new business models that will enable them to move away from a largely linear economy towards a circular economy. However, that will require a radical change to how we make, use and reuse materials and products.

As the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee highlighted last year following its enquiry into the circular economy, we can all play our part in ensuring that the concept of the circular economy is embedded in all our mindsets.

We are getting there and will get there, but there is clearly a lot more to do and we all must lead by example.