Recycling & Waste

At DS Smith we see waste as a resource. We see its value. Our ability to deliver a zero-waste solution to major retailers is a significant competitive advantage.

Our closed loop recycling model is at the core of this strategy. But despite our excellent record in reducing waste relative to production, having grown substantially as a business in recent years our manufacturing operations generate substantial volumes of waste when measured in absolute terms and how we handle this waste presents a reputational risk. We must ensure that each of our factories demonstrably and transparently delivers best-in-class management and handling of waste and that we continue to reduce the materials we cannot recycle ourselves to the absolute minimum level achievable.

Recovered papers

All of our mills currently use 100% recovered papers as their primary raw material. This is usually a mixture of old corrugated cases (OCC), and recycled newspapers and magazines. We do not consider this to be waste; we prefer to recognise it as a valuable resource which we happen to be particularly good at efficiently collecting, sorting, pulping and converting into new recycled paper for packaging.

Consequently, high paper recovery rates and acceptable levels of quality in recovered paper streams are of great strategic interest to us.

Through our Recycling business, we operate over 10,000 supply contracts with national retailers, local authorities and communities. This paper is then transported by truck for short distances to depots for sorting and grading. We presently secure substantially higher volumes of recycled paper than is required by our own mills, and the surplus is sold to other paper mills or for export.

We promote the most appropriate recycling and recovery system for all the materials we handle. Across the entire supply cycle, our vision is to keep the fibre in a closed material loop: our aim is for zero waste ending up in landfill following consumers’ use of the product. This makes good economic sense due to the economic value of the materials, which more than covers the cost of their collection, as well as environmental sense. Every tonne of recycled material offsets the need to use a tonne of virgin raw material. Recycled fibres are turned back into new packaging within 14 days.

Successful and viable recycling of plastic is more complex than for fibre. The different types of plastic in the waste stream make it difficult to produce acceptable recycled raw material, and sorting is complicated and costly. Some countries where we operate have infrastructures that address this issue, and we have been able to increase our use of recyclate in those countries.

Production waste

Our production processes generate various waste streams, the vast majority of which are re-used through our closed loop model. We are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to re-use materials that would otherwise end up as wastes. All of our plants actively segregate waste to ensure that what can be recycled is recycled. We use six sigma and lean tools to drive out all forms of waste from our manufacturing processes. The reduction of waste to landfill, for both our own operations and those of our customers, has long been a Group target.

Customer waste

In recent years food waste has become a more high-profile, consumer-facing issue. Our role in designing and manufacturing appropriate food packaging helps to combat food waste – minimising transport and logistics losses, and ensuring food stays fresher for longer.

Packaging can also play a key role in food security, protection from damage, preservation of freshness, prolonged shelf life, added convenience and reduced waste.

As part of their total waste solution, our Recycling division also manages post-production, post-consumer and end-of-life food waste. We have developed a core competency of working with food waste and end-of-shelf-life produce to reduce, reuse and recycle potential food waste.