M&S barges into revived waterways

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The Independent Online

The high street retail chain Marks & Spencer is joining a new trend in waste disposal by experimenting with canal transport.

The high street retail chain Marks & Spencer is joining a new trend in waste disposal by experimenting with canal transport.

The company has just employed two barges to take several tons of waste cardboard boxes and packaging from its stores in London along the 157-mile Grand Union canal to a recycling plant in Birmingham.

There is a growing awareness that waste can be easily transported by canal and an experimental scheme in north London will shortly be shifting thousands of tons of domestic refuse to an incinerator along the Lea Navigation canal, in sealed containers on barges.

Later this month M&S, which produces 25,000 tons of waste cardboard a year and recycles 80 per cent of it, is meeting the Birmingham recycling company, Kappa Paper Recycling of Saltley, and the Canal Boat Operators' Associationto discuss running a regular service.

Roland Hill, the M&S environmental services manager, said: "It's not without its problems, because some of the canal infrastructure, such as loading docks, has disappeared, and the cardboard needs to be baled to the right size. But we are going to work out the logistics and the costs and, as long as they are bearable, we will think about doing it. It's about showing faith with an alternative means of transport."

The cardboard cargo arrived in Birmingham on the narrowboats Atlas and Shad, which were both built in the 1930s, used as commercial barges, left to go derelict and then subsequently restored.

Mel Bannister, a spokeswoman for British Waterways, said there was great potential for the scheme after the Government endorsed the idea of using canal boats wherever possible for some materials. "As the speed limit on canals is only four miles per hour this scheme will work best for cargo that does not have to reach its destination by a certain time.

"Already schemes in the rest of the country have shown that using waterways to carry non-time-sensitive materials such as domestic refuse and recyclables is a sustainable alternative to using lorries," she said.

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