Where waste is always a resource

At DS Smith, the focus is on ensuring that we keep our materials in the supply cycle for as long as possible, making sure that the maximum value is captured.

Article 5 of 8, Sustainability Review series:

Waste, by definition, is typically the final destination of resources considered to have ended their useful life. However, at DS Smith waste is an opportunity.

DS Smith prides itself on maximising recycling and recovery systems.

  • Over five million tonnes of material was recycled and diverted from landfill by DS Smith, across Europe.
  • Waste to landfill per tonne of production has reduced by 13% since 2011 across the DS Smith Group – on track to achieve the target of 20% reduction by 2020. 

Every tonne of recycled paper fibre we collect offsets the need to harvest a tonne of virgin raw material. And every piece of plastic we recycle reduces the need to manufacture virgin plastics from crude oil.

Turning our own waste into a resource

The most obvious, scaled-up example of circular economy and waste as a resource at DS Smith is the close integration of recycling, paper and packaging operations in a closed loop model. Cardboard, old corrugated cases, pre-consumer off-cuts and a variety of other paper grades are DS Smith’s primary raw material.

This collaboration is so close that the DS Smith packaging site in Eerbeek, Netherlands blows its waste cardboard off-cuts along a pipe to neighbouring De Hoop Paper Mill to be made into paper again. 

Similarly, in the Plastics Division most sites have on‑site regrinding and recycling operations which regularly process off‑cuts, damaged product and customer waste. Several completely autonomous mobile recycling units also offer recycling services to some of the largest beverage companies in the world.

However waste is used in a variety of other creative ways across the business.

Innovating with waste

  • Dust from two UK packaging sites is mixed with composting food waste at the Eden Project to be added to soil in the botanical gardens. This collaboration won a Green Apple Award in 2016. Find out more here.

  • Pre-consumer cardboard offcuts are being made into animal bedding for horses and other farm animals through the creation of a new business venture based in the UK, called BedKind. Find out more here.

  • Dirty and used foam packaging, collected from customers, can be made into traffic cones.  The foam is broken up, compacted on-site, and then sent to external facilities to be made into cones.

Call for high-quality recycling

DS Smith recognises that by applying the waste hierarchy across both our own and our customers’ operations, we can reduce waste and ensure that all materials that can be recycled are actually recycled.

This is why the DS Smith Recycling division is so focused on the quality of recycled materials.

“We work with customers across Europe, including in countries where the recycling and waste management infrastructure is less mature, to ensure that different materials are collected separately wherever possible,” explains Tim Price, Marketing Director of the Recycling division. “Our mission is to ensure that all material that can be recycled is actually recycled, rather than ending up in landfill or energy recovery.” 

This is the fifth article in an eight-part series where we seek to explore the topics highlighted in our Sustainability Review 2017. To see other case studies of the great work happening across the business, as well as information on our recycling and waste performance, please see our Sustainability Review 2017