In a bid to curb its waste disposal costs, Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) diverts over 50% of its waste from landfill by recycling food, card, paper and glass; enabling it to comply with the new Waste (Scotland) Regulations which came into force this month (1 January 2014).
In order to achieve its sustainability goals AECC wrote a Waste Management Plan and put an Environmental Management System in place. The Venue, which attracts over 300,000 visitors to over 600 events a year, embarked on a campaign in May 2011 to recycle as much waste as possible, to minimise hefty landfill charges and increase sustainability of the events held there. AECC’s efforts, which have earned the Centre Gold Status in the Green Tourism Business Scheme, have been instrumental in enabling AECC to meet the new waste regulations, which are now in effect.
All businesses in Scotland are now (as of 1 January 2014) legally required to separate key recyclable materials including paper and card, plastic, metals and glass for recycling collection. In addition, all food businesses which produce over 50kg of food waste per week must present this for separate collection, unless they are located in a rural area.
Ahead of the game, the Venue makes use of the ‘Recycle on the Go’ brand with bins dedicated to different waste streams to promote recycling. Staff training has been implemented to ensure the bins are used correctly. Prominent signage is key to success, ensuring that staff and visitors are clear where they need to dispose of their rubbish.
The Centre has also been proactive in promoting re-use schemes for items it no longer needs. For instance, part-used radio-microphone batteries are offered for staff to take away and use rather than be disposed of. All items no longer needed such as used light bulbs, batteries and exhibition carpets are now sent to be recycled rather than sent direct to landfill.
The Venue’s many catering and beverage points use cups, plates and cutlery made from corn starch, which means these can be composted alongside food waste. All food waste and compostable packaging is collected for processing locally at an Anaerobic Digestion Plant in Aberdeenshire, turning the waste into compost which can be used by local farmers.
David McDonald, Catering General Manager at AECC commented: “For us, needing to become a more sustainable business was spurred on by our desire to cut costs commercially, given the high financial cost of sending waste to landfill. We are not experts in this area by any means, but we are a group of focused individuals who want to make a difference.
“While the food waste requirements don’t include drinks, the particular challenge we had was how to deal with our liquid food waste. We overcame this problem by following Scottish Water’s best practice guidance for dealing with waste soup, stocks, sauces and milk products, which usually all contain fat and can congeal and harden in the drains. With agreement with our waste contractor, we simply leave them to cool and harden, scrape into container and place them in a food waste bin. Used fat, oil and grease are placed in containers and uplifted as it’s an offence to dispose of them in the drain under the Sewerage (Scotland) Act 1968. By continuously working to reduce waste, we are delighted to have been waste regulation compliant ahead of deadline”.
Ian Gulland of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “A recent report from WRAP highlighted the staggering annual cost to Scotland’s hospitality and food service sector of throwing away its food waste. By implementing ways in which food waste can be cut down and recycled rather than thrown away, the industry could be in a position of saving £166 million per annum. It’s fantastic to see Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre is well on its way to helping Scotland’s hospitality industry achieve that saving. However, they have been effective across the board, not just with food waste, and through the measures implemented are in a great position to comply with the new waste regulations. I would encourage those within the hospitality industry to sign up to the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement, a UK wide voluntary agreement to reduce waste.
“We urge all organisations, regardless of size, to speak to their local authority or waste contractor for about the waste regulations to ensure that they are compliant. A wealth of excellent free help, advice and support is available via the Resource Efficient Scotland programme.”