02/08/2019 – News / Retail / Environment / Supermarkets / Fridges / UK / Global
“Ban ‘open fridges’ in all supermarkets” urge environmental experts
The millions of ‘open-display’ fridges installed in supermarkets across the UK and worldwide should be banned due to their environmental impact, say experts at BusinessWaste.co.uk. Fortunately, doing so would result in significant cost savings for retailers.
A common sight for shoppers, open fridges are used to display cold products such as meat, dairy, ready-meals and other staples, and can line dozens of aisles in bigger supermarkets. The popularity of such installations grew with retailers as their open fronts allowed shoppers to see more easily what was on offer – leading to more impulse purchases and bigger profits for the businesses.
However, it is this open-fronted design that is precisely what makes such fridges so damaging for the environment. The refrigerant used in many of the leading retailers’ stores consists of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – a group of so-called ‘super greenhouse gases’ which are much more harmful even than carbon dioxide, with a global warming potential 100-3,000 times higher than that of CO2).
While some UK retailers have made moves to improve the environmental impact of their refrigeration systems - with household names such as Aldi and Tesco committing to reducing their HFC use - this fails to address the energy wastage which is a factor of all open fridge designs, regardless of the coolant used.
Supermarket fridge facts:
• 1.5 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy are used by supermarkets in the UK each year, with 60-70 per cent used by fridges
• Sainsbury’s alone uses 1 per cent of the UK’s energy demand
• Supermarkets’ HFC gas emissions are equivalent to producing 5.6 billion plastic bags
• New ‘aerofoil’ technology in supermarket fridges could mean energy savings of up to 25 per cent if adopted by retailers
Major cost savings with closed fridges
“Committing to reducing harmful emissions is all well and good, but retailers have been slow to do so in practice – and by continuing to use open fridges, they are simply paying lip service to improving their environmental credentials,” stressed Mark Hall, spokesperson for BusinessWaste.co.uk, “Shoppers adapt quickly to new initiatives; the 5p plastic carrier bag levy is an excellent example of the general public quickly adopting new ways of shopping. And, with environmental concerns higher than ever on the public consciousness, we are finding that consumers are increasingly willing to accept that changes must be made to prevent further damage to our planet.”
If all UK supermarkets put doors on their open fridges, the electricity saved would be approximately double of that generated by Yorkshire’s coal-fired Drax power station – Europe’s second largest. It seems obvious, then, that closed fridges could result in cost savings for supermarkets, as well as improving their emissions.
“Supermarkets are ultimately concerned about the bottom line, and whether or not their sales would be affected without the pull of products catching shoppers’ eyes. They rely heavily on impulse purchasing – hence more expensive products being stocked at eye-level and those tempting treats placed by the tills. But, as with many issues that are huge contributors to environmental damage, it’s now the responsibility of industries to innovate and find new ways to operate in this new, concerning landscape we find ourselves in.
“We urge all retailers to look more closely at how they store and market their cold products, and help dramatically reduce the use of open fridges in the UK,” stressed Mr Hall. “We have the opportunity to make the UK a leader in this space, and while some work has already been done, we have a long way to go.”
Roberta Lindley from Health and Safety software company Protecting.co.uk added: “It’s worth noting that there could be certain dangers arising in older fridge with the leaking of toxic Freon gas, which is extremely harmful to the environment. A tell-tale sign could be spots of oil dripping onto the floor. If you see that, get out of the shop.”