The distribution industry needs to work with research bodies and each other to create sustainable waste management solutions. Distributors need to take action now to ensure their businesses remain sustainable.

The industrial outlook in 10 to 15 years' time, in terms of waste disposal, is set to change radically. There will be an obligation on retailers, wholesalers and foodservice outlets to have new systems and arrangements in place, particularly for technical, electrical and specialist waste streams.

Competing logistics companies will have to work together to co-ordinate delivery times and consolidate the take-back of waste streams. The focus will move away from just supplying core goods. Any spare delivery vehicle capacity will need to be used to take back recyclable material, stock and customer returns.

Dr Tom Cherrett from the University of Southampton recently spoke at a Keystone-hosted industry forum. He presented a case study of retailers in Winchester High Street. The research found that one provider was responsible for 82% of the deliveries to each business. Yet 41% stated that they didn't use this provider for back-loading.

Potentially, more than 130 roll cages of cardboard a week could be back-loaded from an average high street. Larger retailers with centralised distribution systems could find it financially attractive to back-load their own recyclable material and that of their neighbours.

Nobody can envisage the future of green logistics in detail but we do know from our research that things are going to change substantially. Keystone is putting itself at the centre of these initiatives to create forward-thinking solutions that we can share with our customers and our competitors.

Green logistics is a sector of our industry that needs collaboration and involvement from parties across the entire supply chain.

Paul Pegg, vice president, Keystone Distribution Europe