The retail sector may be leading the way when it comes to sustainable practice, but there are still plenty of opportunities to deliver further environmental – and associated financial – savings, especially in the realm of distribution and display equipment.
In fact, three of the most prevalent items within the retail environment also tend to be the most overlooked when it comes to introducing green business practices. Often an afterthought in procurement and store planning, the humble shopping trolley, the shelving which displays the products and roll cages that transport goods through the supply chain are all areas where retailers could make a significant impact upon both their environmental footprint and their annual expenditure.
What the trolley, roll cage and the shelf all have in common is that, for the most part, all three are made of steel – an eminently recyclable material. As steel does not lose any of its physical properties through the recycling process, the resource requirements to recycle existing steel are far less than those used in mining and refining raw iron ore.
Indeed, figures from Reviva suggest that the remanufacturing of a shopping trolley generates less than half the carbon dioxide emissions of manufacturing the same volume of steel from raw materials, and costs around 40 per cent less.
When retailers refurbish their stores, the focus is upon changing equipment; swapping old for new. As a result, much of the retired equipment ends up in a skip and, often, in landfill. However, the majority of retail distribution and display equipment is actually designed to last much longer than its actual use in store, which makes the current throwaway culture a waste of both resource and money.
More positively, in recent years, retail designers have started to consider the sustainability of the materials used and the assembly process for installing equipment. Furthermore, if display solutions last longer than they are in use, it seems logical to look at ways of extending their in-store life. But ensuring they look as good as new is critical. Through robust remanufacturing processes, products such as flat steel shelving can be taken offsite, stripped back to basics, re-plated and refinished in a variety of coatings.
It is a common misconception that being sustainable adds cost. However, by looking at remanufacturing to prolong a product’s lifecycle while looking like new, there is the opportunity to achieve significant cost savings and environmental benefits.