11 Aug Waste reduction at DPD UK is soaring thanks to innovative and collaborative working

DPD UK is making massive strides towards our strategy to become the UK’s leader in sustainable delivery. And, as part of this, we are constantly working to find ways to reduce waste internally and all the way through our distribution system.

We now recycle 70% of all waste generated across the business, with zero reaching landfill. This success is down to a cohesive, innovative approach to waste minimisation and social change.

Waste reduction at DPD UK is a major focus for our 1-2-3-4 strategy

Today, we deliver a massive 350 million+ parcels every year around the UK on behalf of 7,500 customers including Next, John Lewis and Asos. With more than 22,000 employees across the business, our unchecked carbon footprint would be significant.

For us, this is not an option and while we have always been committed to cutting waste and being as green as possible, we’ve stepped this up hugely over the last few years.

The waste management strategy is part of the fourth pillar of the company’s 1-2-3-4 strategy, which was introduced in 2019. Since then, we have collectively achieved a phenomenal amount.

As well as having the largest electric vehicle (EV) fleet in the UK with more than 1000 EVs delivering parcels right now, we’ve slashed cardboard waste, stepped up recycling the plastic wrap used throughout the business and eliminated one million plastic bottles.

In 2020, DPD UK’s waste management plan expanded to include a new KPI to measure (in kg) the amount of waste produced from every 1,000 deliveries. Here’s how it works.

What is the waste strategy at DPD UK?

The DPD UK waste strategy is to:

  • Remove.
  • Reduce.
  • Reuse.
  • Recycle.

To monitor this, we follow short- and long-term targets and since 2019, we’ve seen a 10% growth in recycling to 70% of everything we produce. The aim is to achieve 80% by 2025.

Achieving these targets relies on taking a comprehensive approach to the idea of ‘measure what matters’. We now measure 15 waste streams across the business, an increase of eight new streams since 2019.

Head of CSR Olly Craughan says: “Understanding the different type of waste the business produces and where each type comes from allows us to make the right kind of decisions for waste management.”

The CSR team works directly with various suppliers such as Veolia, and with colleagues across different DPD UK departments to improve waste reduction processes. “For the past nine months, we are at zero, with all waste being used as energy or being recycled.”

Circular economy initiatives underpin the waste management strategy at DPD UK

Our waste strategy is about reducing what we produce as a business internally and helping others to reduce theirs externally.

The driving force behind our waste strategy is the circular economic model. By directly linking our waste strategy with tangible social change we are making even more of a difference. An example of this is Project ReLove.

ReLove is accessed by the DPD app and allows customers receiving deliveries from us to donate clothing to our drivers when they arrive with their parcel. We then forward this preloved clothing to one of five different charities.

And the innovative approach from the company has meant that, even during the height of the global pandemic, DPD UK still increased recycling rates. This is an enormously impressive achievement when we look back at how the pandemic hit us. We have 86 delivery depots, five sortation hubs and three office locations around the country.

When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, we had to manage our employees and ensure their safety, follow all the rules and restrictions of lockdown and facilitate the unprecedented increase in online shopping. The surge in online orders due to lockdown increased our deliveries by 45%.

Undeterred, we pivoted plans to open six new depots and boosted this to 16. At the same time we boosted recycling by 5% with some depots reaching 90%.

Collaboration and group innovation helps us hit waste targets

Through our regular innovation lab meeting with specialist suppliers and partners such as Avena, Powerflex, Allwoods and Veolia, we are constantly reviewing waste management practices. Examples of recent initiatives include the implementation of the damaged pallet collection service at our depots.

Allwoods repair pallets that need it, which led to DPD reusing 25,000 pallets for the first time in 2020. Any pallets that can’t be repaired are recycled into animal bedding, ensuring that there is no waste.

Other initiatives include Powerflex using recycled materials to manufacture our tote boxes. This saved 325 tonnes of otherwise untouched material in 2020 and saved approximately 78% in CO2 emissions.

Additionally, any electricals that have come to the end of their usage are either prepared so they can be reused or they are broken down for their parts.

Olly says: “Engaging our partners, customers and employees internally are all essential to delivering our waste strategy. Internally, we applied the same Remove, Reduce, Recycle approach to paper consumption. By digitising a number of systems we saved 800,000 A4 sheets of paper in 2020, which equates to saving nine tonnes of CO2 emissions. By working with procurement, we also sourced more environmentally sound paper, which uses 20% less wood per sheet. This again is lowering emissions.”

Wide-ranging waste management initiatives now in place

And if all of that isn’t enough, here are a few other initiatives that are part of the new DOPD UK waste reduction strategy:

  • By investing in water stations at each depot and supplying all 22,000 team members with reusable bottles for life, we’ve saved one million single use 0.5 litre water bottles in a year. That’s 58 tonnes of PET.
  • DPD UK’s delivery bags are now made with 80% recycled material, which saved 468 tonnes of virgin LDPE in 2020. We also provide information to customers about where and how these bags can be recycled after use.
  • Both clear and coloured plastic used in our hubs is recycled. We now recycle more than we buy by using Reusable Transit Packaging (RTP). In 2020, this meant we recycled 335 tonnes of shrink-wrap and bought 200 tonnes less than in 2019.
  • RTP is also used to remove single-use cardboard.
  • The development of an innovative tracking system for RTP reduces loss and increases the use per unit. We removed 50,000 single use boxes in 2020, and in 2021 plan to remove 250 tones of cardboard.
  • During the pandemic, we worked with major supermarkets to improve packaging included in their home delivery services to people during lockdown.
  • Solar energy panels installed on our distribution hubs saved 625 tonnes of CO2, which equals 16,251 trees and 1,389,000 KWH of energy
  • Our Eco Fund is backed by internal circular economy initiative and is used to protect the environment. The money generated from recycling plastic shrink-wrap and recycling wooden pallets as described above goes into the Eco Fund and is donated to various organisations. In 2020, we donated a total of £200,000 across 149 organisations and initiatives.

Olly says: “Waste reduction is an ever-changing area with constant innovation and introduction of new technological improvements. We always set meaningful and achievable targets for our teams, which both challenges and rewards our team members. We’ve successfully reached ISO140001 standard and Carbon trust Accreditation in waste and we are always improving what we do.

“We’re incredibly proud of the achievements of the business so far in terms of waste management, particularly during one of the most challenging periods in our history.”