Too little, too late for SME recycling?

Research carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses has shown that nine in 10 businesses would  recycle more if they had access to better facilities.

Currently just 43% of councils offer a trade waste recycling service – while this figure has doubled over the past three years, it still leaves the majority of businesses reliant on hunting down a private provider for their recycling operations.

You might think this may not be a bad thing; the private sector is competitive by nature and so should be able to offer a good deal. But often, this isn't the case.

Firms that produce small quantities of waste are unable to take advantage of economies of scale and are at the mercy of being ‘cherry-picked' (or not) by waste management companies who are after big volumes, lengthy contracts, and convenient logistical routes.

The result is if you're a rural business out in the middle of nowhere, far from a waste disposal collection point or treatment facility, you could pay through the nose to get your recyclables picked up.

It's not a great state of affairs, especially with new regulations due to take effect this week (September 28) forcing all companies to apply the waste hierarchy when transferring their waste. Many will now be under pressure to reuse and recycle what they can – fine in principle, but not if the soaring costs of waste disposal threaten to put out them out of business.

Things are looking hopeful on the horizon – the end of the landfill allowance trading scheme (LATS) means that more councils should be incentivised to go after trade waste arisings. They currently can offer a VAT-exempt service too (a sore point with private sector providers) although this may change going forward.

In addition, many waste contractors are now being urged to offer more affordable and accessible recycling services to small firms, under a voluntary code of practice which is being drawn up. However the code is voluntary, so whether this will have the desired effect remains to be seen.

There are still a lot of question marks around capturing more of the SME waste stream. But with 50% of trade waste arisings reportedly emanating from companies with 20 employees or less, it surely begs the question of why aren't we doing more to help these organisations?

Follow me on twitter @rubbishrules

maxine perella

Topics: edie
Tags: | Reuse | waste management
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