The Co-operative Bank – delivering ambitious environmental goals

0 card readers

A total of 80,000 card readers have been collected from homes and recycled

Target zero to landfill

The strategy contained ambitious targets for improving The Co-operative Bank’s waste-related performance and reputation

Closed loop recycling

Segregation systems put in place to avoid sending any waste materials to landfill and recycling and closed loop solutions implemented to move waste further up the waste hierarchy

The journey to zero waste to landfill

The Co-operative Bank was already fully committed to maintaining its ethically driven values and promoting a positive environmental impact, however it realised there was a need for a more ambitious waste and sustainability strategy. The end goal of implementing this strategy was to elevate both its performance and reputation.

As the Bank’s approved waste management partner, Reconomy was asked to help develop and write a new waste strategy, complete with a roadmap for its implementation and successful delivery. This was created over a 2-3-month period, receiving input from all relevant stakeholders across the business. To achieve its journey towards zero waste to landfill, the Bank unveiled a 3-step process following the launch of the strategy.

Step 1: Communication

Sharing the strategy both internally and externally was key to receiving buy-in and engagement. This was regarded as being not without risk, as many businesses prefer to keep their environmental and sustainability driven plans secret from the public in case they fail to reach their targets.

Following consultation with Reconomy, our experience has shown that being bold demonstrates a determination and commitment to act on this environmental crisis we are in. Even if it means that not all targets are met, people still recognise the effort.

A team of Sustainability Champions was also created to be the project’s ‘on-the-ground’ ambassadors. Their role was to embed the values and behaviours needed for the project to be successful. Briefing sessions were regularly held to inform them of changes and provide guidance on roll out plans.


Step 2: Segregation

The roll-out across The Co-operative Bank’s Balloon Street Head Office in Manchester began in January 2020. This involved new bin systems being implemented, enabling for a more diverse range of waste streams to be segregated, meaning that no material would need to be disposed of at landfill.

Though this represented a positive step forward, it would only achieve the desired result if those using the bins were onboard and correctly briefed on their use. Contamination of these bins would not only result in less environmentally friendly disposal routes, it would also add unnecessary costs, as additional sorting or transportation would be required once the waste was collected.

To ensure the bins were being used correctly, an engagement day was held during the roll-out period. Run in collaboration with representatives from Reconomy, this involved the distribution and display of marketing materials, banners and infographics, all geared towards making staff fully aware of the new system and their personal responsibilities.


Step 3: monitor, review and Improve

Once awareness of the newly collected waste streams had been communicated, various initiatives were set up to move the business further up the waste hierarchy, introducing more recycling, reuse and waste reduction models.

One of the most high-profile examples of this was the Bank’s card reader recycling scheme that Reconomy set up to recycle redundant card readers from customers’ homes. So far over 80,000 have been collected and recycled. Other examples include replacing plastic cutlery used in the canteen with reusable metal cutlery and replacing sauce sachets with refillable bottles.

Reconomy is also exploring opportunities around paper usage within the Bank to introduce a closed loop recycling solution that means wastepaper is recycled back into new copier and printer paper. Removal of single use plastics from its offices is also being explored as a future initiative.

Anne-Kathrin Richter, Compliance, Sustainability & Energy Manager at the Co-operative Bank said: Reconomy have been a true partner in the Bank’s journey to achieving its zero waste to landfill ambitions. The support we received was continually tailored to the challenging and changing requirements presented by the last 12 months. We continue to work closely with Reconomy to adjust and improve our waste arrangements going forward to achieve waste solutions in line with circular economy principles.

Next steps...

The Co-operative Bank and Reconomy have now rolled out zero waste to landfill solutions at the Bank’s main offices and are implementing zero waste to landfill waste disposal solutions throughout its branch network.

Reconomy and The Co-operative Bank are continuing to build in improvements to maintain zero waste to landfill across their sites, monitoring results and implementing solutions that seek to minimise waste and the associated costs and develop a circular economy in the future.

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