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dunelm store front


Partnership with the UK's leading home furnishing retailer

Case study // Simplification furnishes Dunelm with success

The company was founded in 1979 by Bill and Jean Adderley, who started out selling curtains on a Leicester market stall, then opened the first Dunelm store in the town. Today the retailer offers more than 26,000 products from 160 out-of-town stores UK-wide and employs more than 9,000 people.

It’s committed to minimising the impact of the business on the environment, and to developing and implementing strategies to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions, and maximise recycling.

“In partnership with Biffa, in recent years we’ve also conducted a series of detailed audits, and put in place a number of bespoke initiatives around sustainable procurement, segregation and compliance, and packaging and waste, to deliver continuous improvements towards our environmental goals and reduced general waste weights by 20%,” said Dunelm’s Recycling and Waste Manager Claire O’Brien.

Biffa has also been supporting Dunelm with general waste services at its stores, head offices, manufacturing and distribution centres as well as recycling collections from selected stores.

High levels of recycling

Biffa’s services have complemented Dunelm’s Recycle at Work initiative, aimed at achieving high levels of recycling across the business. At present all sites have balers for cardboard and colour-coded bins to segregate waste, supported by training programmes to increase colleague awareness and compliance.

The nine single waste streams are backhauled to the company’s national distribution centre in Stoke which has handled a quarter of a million plastic milk bottles; 120,000 PET bottles, 40 tonnes of paper, cans, metal, wooden pallets and general waste. More than 70 tonnes of electrical waste has been recycled through a WEEE compliant scheme and any waste not directly handled within the business is sent offsite for further sorting.

Cardboard and poly film with a combined weight of almost 7,000 tonnes has been collected in the past 12 months alone. The cardboard is baled and the poly film bagged using a special bag stuffer frame to help condense the volume of waste being sent back on delivery lorries.

As a result of its advanced backhauling model, Dunelm currently achieves a direct recycling rate of 81%, which increases to 90% after offsite sorting, and a 91% landfill diversion rate.

Simplified process

Claire and Biffa Account Manager David Robinson are determined to improve even further on compliance and recycling capture. “We’re passionate about our environmental responsibilities. Our target is zero waste to landfill and we want to get as close to 100% as possible for our recycling too,” said Claire.

“And that’s the challenge. When you are already doing so much towards achieving those goals, the closer you get the harder it becomes to find new ways to increase rates further still. Dunelm is already very successful at what it does so it’s hard to improve on,” David added.

“With such significant volumes of plastic milk and PET bottles being collected and no cost-efficient solution at store level to condense the volume, this has put pressure on the available space on vehicles and storage at the DC.

"While Dunelm should be applauded for the number of separate waste streams being collected from stores, ensuring 100% compliance will always be a challenge. Combined with the growing volumes of recyclable waste as stores have become more efficient, these waste streams required an alternative solution,” David explained.

Together they realised that simplicity held the key to the next steps to success for Dunelm, and the company is now introducing a TEEP-compliant Dry Mixed Recycling wheelie bin service to all stores.

“Eighteen months of waste audits showed us that the recycling process wasn’t as simple as it could be for our colleagues. It proved uneconomical to identify precisely where non-compliant streams were originating, and those materials were potentially ending up in general waste. We realised we needed to make it even easier for colleagues relaxing in the break rooms to recycle without having to work hard to get it right,” Claire explained.


Martin Nobes - Head of New Business

Martin Nobes

New Business Enquiries - if you're interested in how Biffa can help support you with strategic sustainable solutions contact Martin by emailing

Claire O'Brien – Recycling & Waste Manager, Dunelm

“While Dunelm should be applauded for the number of separate waste streams being collected from stores, ensuring 100% compliance will always be a challenge.”