Litter is a full-time job

You may have already read that we’re actively involved with litter. But did you also know that we have a full-time employee to implement our litter policy? Goedele Daems, project leader in our environmental service department, is working on reducing litter every day. She’s already implemented a lot of good things. We asked her about the state of play.

What are you doing about litter?

Goedele: “I lead projects about litter, manage everything and shape our activities. Of course for every initiative, I work with colleagues from other departments, with buyers or technicians from our technical department, or with employees from the different shop chains. For the Recycle for example: an electric delivery bike that makes it easy to collect and sort litter at events.”

Goedele on the Recycle delivery bike
Goedele tries out one of the five Recycles before they get their real test at this summer’s festivals.

“Another initiative is installing litter islands. We’re running a lot of trials at a few central sites and in 11 Colruyt parking areas. And that’s going really well! We’ve already decided to install litter islands on all the central sites that we manage ourselves.”

We really want to start a mindshift with employees, customers, organisations, governments, and so on.

Why is Colruyt Group focusing on less litter?

Goedele: “We’re aware of the street litter problem. As a major social player and retailer, it’s our duty (at least we think it is) to tackle this problem. Moreover, sustainable entrepreneurship is important to us. Reducing litter is part of that.”

“Our commitment goes beyond just clearing up cans, waste paper and PET bottles. We really want to start a mindshift with employees, customers, organisations, governments and so on. That’s why we drew up the ‘Joining hands against street litter’ action plan. It runs for 5 years. By 2020, we really want to see a difference.”

Litter island at our Halle headquarters
The litter island in Demesmaeckerstraat in Halle shows our employees clearly where they can leave their litter.

And have our actions already been effective?

Goedele: “We’re already seeing good results with the litter islands in the parking areas: the parking area looks a lot better overall. In some places, the litter bins can also save time for our cleaning or shop teams. And as for the Recycle, when we launched it, our five bikes were immediately fully booked for three months! They’ll be seen all summer long at all kinds of events and festivals. That’s really good. It shows that people are committed to reducing street litter.”

“It’s always nice if we get into the press with this kind of initiative. That way, we can make it clear to a wider public what we’re doing. We set a good example and want to encourage others to take action.”

I would like to do more to raise awareness amongst our employees.

What else is in our action plan?

Goedele: “We’re also trying to get projects off the ground at a higher level. For example, we were the driving force behind several agreements between the business world, Flanders and Wallonia. Together, we committed ourselves to reducing litter.

And how exactly does that process work?

Goedele: “The ‘Retail Clean Up Days’ in November 2016 was a very tangible activity. In total, 1,460 shops belonging to different retailers cleared up litter in their local area. In addition, we provide financial support to government action plans through the Comeos trade federation, Fost Plus and Fevia. As a sector, we donate to two litter organisations each year, 9.6 million euros to Mooimakers and 3.9 million euros to BeWaPP.”

Participant in a clean-up activity
Clean-up actions address a wider public: we want to raise awareness about the litter problem.

And how do you see the future?

Goedele: “I would like to do more to raise awareness amongst our employees. For example, we made a short video specifically for our truck drivers which is the starting point of an action which will also be seen on our trailers. After that, I’ll evaluate and test current projects further, so that hopefully we can roll them out.

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Name: Goedele Daems
Function: Project leader in the environment service department
Job? • I coordinate all projects concerning street litter. I ended up in my job almost by chance, but I get a lot of satisfaction from it. Energy? • Travelling gives me a lot of energy. Best project? • The Recycle was a fun challenge. Many of my contacts work full time on festivals. Really nice!

With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Sustainable cities and communities Responsible consumption & production