Energy efficient lighting and a new waste management contract are bringing broader business benefits for the Lowry Outlet mall. the environmentalist reports
Almost five million people visit the Lowry Outlet in Salford each year, enjoying shopping trips at its stores, dining at its restaurants and cafes, or watching the latest films at its cinema. With more than 80 retail and catering units, the mall is, unsurprisingly, a significant user of energy and producer of waste. And yet in November 2012, the outlet won a prestigious Green Apple award for its achievements in addressing precisely these challenges.
The award is the culmination of several years’ work by the outlet’s operations manager, John O’Boyle, to prevent as much as waste as possible from being landfilled and to radically reduce the site’s carbon footprint. Over the past 12 months, O’Boyle has worked closely with the outlet’s staff and its recycling company, JWS Waste Management, to divert 97% of waste from landfill. This work has resulted in more than 700 tonnes of waste being recycled or used to generate electricity.
The outlet has also significantly cut its electricity use and costs. Changing to lower-wattage bulbs in the centre’s ceiling lights and in the ground-floor car park has prevented 356,957kg of CO2 from being emitted and generated a financial saving of almost £75,000 a year.
“The changes we’ve made had an immediate impact on operational running costs and laid the foundations for longer-term commercial gains,” says O’Boyle. “These positive results show that retail operations can make significant commercial gains, while also adopting a more environmentally-friendly approach.”
When O’Boyle joined the Lowry Outlet in 2006, all of the waste generated by the site went into compactors and on to landfill. Having previously worked as an estates manager at a large college, O’Boyle had a track record of more sustainable waste management that he sought to take forward in his new role.
Four years ago, the outlet installed its first cardboard balers and it now has processes in place for preventing all the main waste streams from reaching landfill.
The 714 tonnes of waste have been diverted over the past 12 months, comprised of approximately:
- 12 tonnes of plastic;
- 103 tonnes of cardboard;
- 10 tonnes of metal;
- 1.5 tonnes of wood; and
- 588 tonnes of general waste.
The only type of waste still being sent to landfill is food, and O’Boyle is now investigating potential methods of disposing of this stream in a more sustainable fashion.
The cost of the outlet’s recycling programme is met via the service charge paid by the mall’s tenants, such as retailers and cafes. The total outlay for the programme for the 12 months to June 2012 was £65,669.
Changes to its waste management activities include agreeing a contract for the entire mall with a single waste management supplier, JWS Waste and Recycling Services, in August 2010. Along with other suppliers, JWS had already been providing onsite waste management services, such as compactors, for several years.
The outlet took the decision to centralise all waste management services with one supplier to implement a more effective strategy. Following a tendering process and the award of the contract, a portable compactor and a cardboard baler were installed at both of the outlet’s loading bays. Also, the collection of metal, plastics and glass was incorporated into the contract.
According to O’Boyle, the contract with JWS, which is now into its second year, is progressing well. “Our relationship with JWS has gone from strength to strength due to their reliability, excellent standards and the remarkable results they have achieved year-on-year,” he comments.
JWS’s materials recovery facility is permitted to process up to 375,000 tonnes of waste each year, using mechanical separation combined with handpicking to ensure that more than 90% of the materials processed is diverted to resource recovery or energy production.
Following segregation, JWS prepares the waste to be recycled into new materials, including:
- aggregate for road and construction use;
- wood for chipboard production;
- soil for landscaping; and
- cardboard and paper for papermills.
Under the service contract, JWS provides the outlet with a weekly report itemising the types and amount of waste collected, and a monthly report detailing how much of the different streams have been recycled. The June 2012 certificate, for example, reveals that JWS collected 46 tonnes of waste and recycled 100% of the plastic, cardboard, metal and timber.
The outlet pays JWS £74 for every collection of waste, plus £73 for every tonne of waste that comes out of the compactors. It does not pay anything for the collection of plastic, cardboard and metal, and receives a rebate for some waste streams, including £40 per tonne of cardboard and £120 for plastic.
O’Boyle keeps a record of the costs and savings associated with the contract and maintains it is very cost effective. “The more waste we produce for recycling, the more we save,” he adds. O’Boyle and his team have now installed recycling bins in its food court for general waste, cardboard, cans and plastic bottles. The plan is to extend this practice to the shopping centre itself.
Waste has not been the only focus of attention. Between May 2011 and April 2012, the outlet made a number of changes to its lighting to reduce electricity consumption and CO2 emissions. During this period, 408 light fittings in the outlet’s shopping area have been changed, reducing the wattage from 180W to 42W. This has cut electricity use from more than 1760kW hours (kWh) per day to just 411kWh, while annual running costs have fallen from £57,900 to £13,100.
The team also targeted one of the outlet’s three car parks for reduced electricity consumption in this first phase of its carbon-reduction programme. In the lower car park, 154 light fittings have been converted to compact fluorescent fittings. This change reduced the wattage of each bulb from 180W to 60W and the daily electrical energy consumption from 665kWh to 221kWh. The annual running costs have similarly fallen by two-thirds – from £21,854 to £7,285.
A further 83 lights in the lower car park have been changed to twin fluorescent fittings. For these bulbs, the wattage has dropped to 120W, with electricity consumption falling from 358kWh a day to 239kWh, and annual energy bills cut by £3,920.
In the shopping area itself, around one-third of the lighting is being switched off on a daily basis, which is forecast to reduce the outlet’s carbon footprint by a further 64,547kg over the next year. This equates to an additional financial saving of £13,510.
The outlet’s strategy demonstrates that a shopping centre can be environmentally friendly and save costs without compromising on the quality of lighting. O’Boyle points out that these sustainability improvements have been made possible because lighting technology has developed significantly over the past few years.
“The Lowry Outlet presents itself as a role model, to inspire other shopping centres and retail operations,” he asserts. “We have demonstrated that by making simple changes, particularly in lighting, you can make substantial sustainability gains. At the same, you can reduce commercial running costs and recoup more than the initial outlay in the first year.”
Following the changes to its lighting, the mall cut its carbon footprint by more than 356,950kg in the 12 months to June 2012. With the new light fixtures installed by in-house maintenance staff, the total cost of the changes was £34,176. However, the subsequent fall in lighting costs far outweighed the expenses and, overall, resulted in a healthy financial saving of £40,536.
O’Boyle says that the lighting changes are both innovative and commercial. For example, where the outlet changed from 180W to 42W light fittings, the lower-wattage lamps not only have the equivalent brightness, but also last twice as long as the old lamps, some 20,000 hours.
The changes to lighting save money in the short term and improve sustainability in the long run. “What we did not only impacts on savings from a lighting perspective, it also has a knock-on effect in reducing workload for the maintenance team who have responsibility for changing the bulbs,” says O’Boyle. “Furthermore, the old fittings cost £13 each, whereas the new fittings only cost £4, which brings in further savings.”
According to O’Boyle, despite the tangible sustainability improvements already achieved, the outlet has only “scratched the surface” in terms of reducing its carbon footprint. He estimates that the shopping centre could save one million kilograms of CO2 if all the lighting and other energy-efficient changes he has planned are implemented.
Following the success of the changes to the lighting in the lower car park, a business case to roll out similar alterations in the other car parks has already been submitted. The next phase will focus on the shopping mall’s multi-storey car park.
The outlet is also reviewing “movement sensory lighting” in certain areas, which will only switch on when cars pass by. Also, all the site’s hand-dryers are soon to be replaced, which will deliver lower running costs, as well as reduced energy use.
On the waste management front, O’Boyle is aiming for 100% diversion from landfill. At the moment, the remit of O’Boyle’s operations team covers the communal areas and car parks, but not the individual retail units. However, the team is working closely with the centre’s shops, cafes, restaurants and the cinema to ensure the waste they produce is disposed in line with the recycling procedures that have been set up.
O’Boyle says there have been two main challenges associated with making the outlet a more sustainable operation. The first was gaining buy-in from the individual retailers for the new waste management programme. The other hurdle was getting the go-ahead from senior management for the initial investment in the new lighting systems. The fact that the financial outlay has already more than paid for itself represents a major part of the business case to secure future funding for similar projects.
“The changes we have made serve as a working example of how other large-scale retail operations can become more sustainable and reduce running costs at the same time,” says O’Boyle. “Given the tough economic climate in the retail industry, that can only be a positive message.”