The COVID pandemic has made an unprecedented global impact. How has it impacted our shopping centres?

We extracted and consolidated waste data from shopping centres across our portfolio, over the periods January to August 2020, to investigate how the data reflected the situation.

Waste data echoes footfall (number of people entering the shopping mall) as a metric (more people, more buying, more waste), however, it additionally reflects retailer activity (e.g. preparation for opening, arriving stock packaging) as well.

Don't Waste Services total waste generated at shopping centres

Figure 1 tells the brutal truth. A dramatic reduction in waste volumes starting from the last week of March (beginning of lockdown), through to the end of May, followed by a gradual and slow return of volumes commencing in June 2020, and increasing monthly to August.

  • 6 months of impact over 8 months of trading!
  • August volumes still only 64% of average pre-COVID volumes.

The detail is reflected in the graphs below, with the waste streams reported in tonnes.

Don't Waste Services Waste Stream Breakdown UK Shopping Centres

*DMR- Dry Mixed Recyclables, *GW- General Waste

 Packaging, such as Cardboard picks up both in tonnage and ratio to total waste commencing from June. This as retailers start re-stocking shelves. August recoveries exceed March for the first time.

Don't Waste Services Cardboard Ratios UK Shopping Centre

Don't Waste Services Glass and Food Ratios UK Shopping Centres

Food and Glass start featuring again from July as food retailers slowly get back to business. August reflects an improvement in tonnage which is understated due to a large portion of food not being segregated and ending up in General waste (see GW Ratio).

This data correlates with the “Eat Out to Help Out Scheme”- a government subsidy implemented in August 2020, granted to restaurants, allowing patrons a 50% discount on food/non-alcoholic drinks, from Mondays to Wednesdays. This incentive encouraged consumers to eat out, in an attempt to re-grow the economy.

What has happened to recycling over this period?  It is encouraging to see that whilst volumes have been impacted, ratios are largely maintained indicating that segregation protocols and diversion strategies remained in place over extremely difficult times.

Don't Waste Services Recycling Ratios UK Shopping Centres

The consistency in recycling ratios can also be attributed to the advanced tools that Don’t Waste provides its clients, to identify elements of the waste hierarchy that are best fit to their respective operations. This works in creating an efficient and effective waste management system, which ensures minimal impact on the environment from their waste streams.


Don’t Waste provides industry leading business intelligence, site management, and waste management services to Property, Retail, Commercial, Industrial and Hospitality industries. Our customers include the world’s leading property management groups. To find out more about our innovative value-added systems and services in onsite waste operations, contact:

Linus Naik- Group Manager: Sustainability & Business Development (Email: I Mobile: +27 82 552 0675).

Michael Foreman- UK Managing Director and International Business Development (Email: I Mobile: +44 7939 027193).

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