Harrods partners with Veolia to transform shopping bags into picnic benches

Harrods partners with Veolia to transform shopping bags into picnic benches

Sustainability

Harrods, the world's leading luxury department store, has partnered with Veolia, a global resource management company, to demonstrate the potential of recycling plastic bags.

By transforming low-density polyethylene (LDPE) shopping bags into picnic benches for Harrods employees, the company is supporting its sustainability strategy to remove all virgin and single-use plastic from its business and become a net-zero business.

Using recycled plastic instead of virgin materials will save the company up to 77.42 tonnes of carbon emissions.

According to government statistics, there were 450 million plastic bags sold between 2020-2021, rising to 774 million when including single-use bags. Recycling all these bags could lead to a carbon saving of over 500,000 tonnes CO₂ per year across the retail sector, while reducing resource consumption and promoting sustainability as part of a circular economy.

In addition to the environmental impact of single-use plastic, it is also known to harm precious ecosystems and wildlife.

From bags to benches - Harrods shopping bags transformed credit Veolia
From bags to benches - Harrods shopping bags transformed © Veolia

However, LDPE bags are relatively simple to recycle by transforming them into plastic pellets and reprocessing them into 'plastic lumber' suitable for making garden furniture.

The Harrods bags have been recycled into ten picnic benches, providing additional seating for employees at their state-of-the-art distribution centre in Thatcham.

Commenting on this project, Simon Futcher, Business Development Director at Veolia UK and Ireland said: As part of our work with Harrods, we are looking for innovative ways to reuse materials which otherwise would have been wasted. Working with Harrods on this project shows the future potential of effective plastic recycling and how it can really make a difference in reducing carbon emissions, as well as providing them with the best platform to help support them with their sustainability goals. It is part of a bigger issue in the retail industry with the amount of carbon that could be saved by recycling plastic bags, which is just one way that we are leading the United Kingdom a step closer to ecological transformation.
Martha Brown, Sustainability Manager at Harrods said: In 2022, we removed our single use plastic carrier bags and launched our 100% recyclable and sustainably sourced paper carrier bag. We have since worked closely with Veolia to ensure the effective recycling our old plastic bags. We have had the opportunity to repurpose our old plastic bags, and in turn build outdoor benches, to create a space which the staff at our distribution centre can use to spend time outside. Harrods is dedicated to embedding circularity across the business, and this has been a great step in the right direction. We are excited to roll out this project in line with our sustainability commitments in the areas of waste, circularity and the reduction of single use materials. As a leading voice in the luxury retail industry, we are proud to partner with Veolia to roll out projects such as this so that we can continue help to raise awareness to our community about the importance of sustainability and waste reduction, and to drive this sustainability initiative to increase recycling and circularity across the retail industry.

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