Business Advice

Responsible waste disposal: FESPA UK’s Waste Accreditation scheme

by FESPA Staff | 24/11/2023
Responsible waste disposal: FESPA UK’s Waste Accreditation scheme

In the first of a two-part focus on FESPA UK’s innovative approach to sustainability, we see how their new Waste Accreditation scheme is already diverting tonnes of waste from landfill.

Last year, we interviewed FESPA UK Managing Director Suzi Ward about the first steps FESPA UK had taken to help printers dispose of material waste responsibly. At the time, a year into Suzi’s five-year sustainability plan, there had been some initial successes and a developing partnership with the UK’s leading waste management outsourcing company, Reconomy.

Now a year later, that relationship has grown stronger with Reconomy Director Jon Hutton officially appointed as FESPA UK’s Sustainability Consultant. Due to Jon’s 23 years in the waste management industry he has expert knowledge of opportunities and solutions for print waste. Together with Suzi, FESPA UK has developed some impressive initiatives that are already helping to revolutionise the print industry’s approach to sustainability.

The beauty of the graphics sector is that the product – which is responsible for around 80% of the overall waste of a campaign – stays in the commercial domain

One of the first schemes that FESPA UK implemented last year  was for managing PVC banner fabric. That has since been augmented by solutions for rigid PVC foam board. Businesses involved in FESPA UK’s Waste Accreditation programme are moving hundreds of tonnes through a partner facility that shreds the material and turns it into fascia boards for newbuild properties. Jon has also been able to find routes to successfully recycle rigid and self-adhesive polypropylenes and siliconised papers.

Accreditation is what you need

However, rather than just individual solutions, one of the most exciting developments and possibly the most effective is FESPA UK’s new Waste Accreditation scheme.

“The Waste Accreditation that we’ve created is step-banded for waste producers – in this case, the print community – to maximise their sustainability,” Jon says.

“The beauty of the graphics sector is that the product – which is responsible for around 80% of the overall waste of a campaign – stays in the commercial domain. So, there is a chance to capture that material, whereas if it went into the domestic domain, such as labels on shampoo bottles, it would be lost.

“With this industry and the enthusiasm that we are currently experiencing, we have the opportunity to capture more of the waste that is produced both at the end of manufacturing and at the end of campaign.”

The scheme has been incredibly successful, in less than a year it has already secured some significant accounts – such as GES, Stylographics and Hollywood Monster.

It can be hard to separate the reality from the marketing, but we can look at it differently and cast a more objective eye on it

“The whole aim of the accreditation is to improve the circular economy and keep materials in the system for as long as we can,” Jon says.

“We realised that printers faced challenges from all areas when it comes to sustainability. It is important to choose the right materials, which can be difficult because suppliers are very good at only informing people about the benefits of their products. It can be hard to separate the reality from the marketing, but we can look at it differently and cast a more objective eye on it.

“Then we can advise people on what to do with materials at the end of manufacturing and the end of the campaign, and how to best dispose of them. We also work with suppliers to see what they can offer and how they can be responsible for disposing of materials as well.”

The accreditation process

“It’s easy to create an accreditation but we realised from the start that we needed to have a clear process for people to achieve it and maintain it. Jon achieves this by managing the waste for people. So, we can say with complete certainty that we know where the waste has gone and we can give people complete accountability. Unless you regulate accreditation strictly, it doesn’t mean anything,” Suzi explains.

To begin the accreditation process, initially Jon does an assessment of the company.
“We’re there to advise, firstly we gain an understanding of what the company is doing – such as the contractors, the collections services and the treatment processes being used. From there, I go to the market to analyse available alternatives. This allows me to prepare a report, detailing their current environmental position and, under the accreditation, what we can do to help manage the waste better,” Jon says.

“Once we present the report saying this is where you are, and this is where you can be with accreditation, most print businesses will perceive this as an attractive proposition. In this process, Reconomy will take over a printer’s waste management to remove the onus from them and, as things change and technology improves, we can incorporate new developments into a business’s waste management.”

Jon and Reconomy operate on the waste hierarchy to ensure nothing is going to landfill.
“Currently, we are not recycling as much as we want to, but that’s because the recycling industry doesn’t yet lend itself to the types of materials that the print sector produces. But we are successfully recycling hundreds of tonnes of PVC and polypropylene. We are also educating printers to use fibre boards because there are readily available markets for recycled fibre boards,” Jon says.

“We utilise the available infrastructure but if there is anything that we don’t have a route for recycling, it goes into waste to energy, so it at least has some use as an end-of-life product. We don’t just maximise recycling, we work on a more advanced platform of maximising sustainability relative to what is available and what allows businesses to make money. We want to help the industry move forward in a sensible and realistic approach, while trying to find alternative routes for recycling materials that are very challenging.”

Case studies

Sometimes, even after the initial assessment, there is little that Jon can do. For example, when a company puts all its waste in a single bin, with all types of substrate going into and no room for storage, possibly all that can be achieved is to avoid landfill and send the waste to waste to energy.

“However, we have other businesses who we work with in a similar situation where there are solutions. For example, we are now working with one product supplier that operates a take-back scheme with several customers and it takes the waste foam board, acrylics, and polypropylene away when it makes a delivery of new product. We then use a trailer to collect the waste material from the supplier’s depot, which gives us about 15 tonnes of material at a time,” Jon says.

Last week we worked with a client that supplies 20m x 5m building wraps, and we got those delivered to a refuse-derived fuel facility to divert them from landfill

“That saves the print business money because it is no longer putting the material in a waste bin, which costs around £180 a tonne. The supplier realised there is an opportunity for it to benefit with its customer base and offer its customers sustainability. In fact, they have started to offer the same services to other customers.

“We’ve had a lot of people come on board; not just manufacturers and suppliers but print management companies, too. Last week we worked with a client that supplies 20m x 5m building wraps, and we got those delivered to a refuse-derived fuel facility to divert them from landfill. I sent the certificate to confirm that yesterday.”

Spreading the word

The quest of finding alternative recycling routes for challenging materials is where Jon’s knowledge, experience and commitment to sustainability is really proving to be a change maker.

“That is something that Jon is constantly doing,” Suzi says. “In the background, he is constantly trying out different things with different recyclers to see where the opportunities are with many different materials. We’re trying to do all that within the UK because, as soon as you start trying to export waste, you are faced with challenges with sustainability. Therefore, we are always looking to innovate and create innovation, which is the third keyword that our new Sustainable Waste Academy works on.”

The reputation of FESPA UK’s Waste Accreditation scheme and its associated sustainable waste solutions is growing to the point where Suzi and Jon’s expertise is being sought overseas.

“Earlier this year, we were actually approached by an exhibition to bring waste back in Amsterdam earlier this year. Jon helped to dispose of all the waste from the exhibition in the UK because they just didn’t know how to deal with it over there. A key part of this drive is focused on helping educate other countries even with just the easy steps,” Suzi says.

“It’s not just static manufacturing sites but other areas of the industry that have come onboard as well. There are challenges, and half the challenge is about getting the message out there. But we are also experiencing  great enthusiasm within the print industry to really tackle the problem of waste.”

For more details on the Waste Accreditation scheme, visit

To hear more about FESPA UK’s new Sustainable Waste Academy, read the second part of our interview with Suzi and Jon here.

by FESPA Staff Back to News

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