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One door closes, another one opens…

Zero Waste Scotland’s job gets bigger this week, with the start of the new Resource Efficient Scotland programme also encompassing energy and water efficiency.

Iain Gulland - Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland | 3 Apr 13

It’s an exciting task and my mind has naturally taken to thinking how our new approach could impact on our current relationships with industry.  Or perhaps more to the point how can our existing relationships help us make an immediate impact.

When discussing this recently with retail colleagues the issue around retail fridges came up. Figures I’ve seen recently suggest that fridges in supermarkets and shops use over 12,500 gWH worth of energy per year across the UK, but attaching doors as standard could reduce this by about half to 6,300 gWH.   For Scotland alone, that could mean savings equivalent to 5% of household electricity demand.  This is a huge opportunity.

Indeed a retail insider suggested to me that after packaging and food waste, which we are already tackling through the Courtauld Commitment, fridge doors were the next big thing retailers needed to tackle if they were to make a further impact on their carbon footprint. 

So why has there been, relatively speaking, so little action on this issue?  The challenge for the big retailers is about being first – or, perhaps more importantly, not being first.  There is a perception that creating a ‘barrier’ to shoppers will either reduce sales or put people off altogether so they go elsewhere.   For us, the natural solution will be to negotiate collective action, so everyone moves together. 

The good news is where some retailers have taken the plunge, it has been well received.  A fellow guest at the recent Scottish Grocer Awards, Stuart Fance from Spar, outlined the green measures his company was taking forward and, lo and behold, fridge doors are top of the list. The rising cost of energy and the pressure on household budgets mean that reducing store costs is paramount to the viability of smaller format stores, which are pivotal to many local communities. 

Customers have responded positively, he says, as the doors have been clearly labelled with messages outlining the benefits to the environment and to keeping prices down. People use a fridge door at home so it’s not completely alien to them, he says. 

The biggest challenge for many stores is the price of the doors in relation to the payback period. Retrofitting doors onto existing cabinets is expensive but still less than buying totally new cabinets. Prices would naturally come down if everyone, including the big stores, went down this route. This would make the investment more attractive. Again, this is another good reason for everyone to move together. 

We’d like to make addressing the fridge door issue one of our first major initiatives through Resource Efficient Scotland.  This is a relatively simple action which could deliver real environmental, economic and local community benefits.  

We’d like it to happen through open collaboration and joined-up communications so the public respond positively.  We’ll provide the support needed – so if you are up for this, please get in touch.

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