Why councils should commit to collecting trade waste
Councils are well placed to help businesses become more resourceful with waste. Susanne Baker looks at the business recycling and waste services commitment
A significant reason why businesses cannot be more resourceful with their waste is that they do not have access to local recycling facilities at an affordable price. Local authorities with their increasingly comprehensive recycling services hold the key to unlocking this problem.
EEF welcomed the Government's announcement of the local authority business recycling and waste services commitment last October. The manufacturers' organisation campaigns for Government to establish policies for manufacturers that create both a green and a growing economy.
The commitment's 12 promises should ensure businesses receive tailored advice, support and access to waste recycling services. Local authorities are opening up their household waste recycling centres for businesses to use. Reasonable and clear fees are also promised.
Defra's waste policy review flagged this as an action with a high impact on improving the management of business waste and reducing carbon emissions. WRAP designed, piloted and launched this initiative, and will monitor its effectiveness.
Over a quarter of UK waste is commercial and industrial waste. While manufacturers are recycling about half of their wastes and send only one quarter to landfill, the manufacturing industry finds it a challenge to further ascend the waste hierarchy.
EEF has talked to its members about the opportunities for more resource efficiency and how to manage waste more effectively. Its research, Ascending the waste hierarchy: practical issues in manufacturing, identified the barriers to achieving this.
EEF found that the main barrier for businesses is how to deal with small waste streams that the waste management industry cannot collect and recycle affordably.
Space and labour in achieving effective segregation is a genuine issue. A quick turnaround of waste is a good, and often necessary, way of utilising restricted space on site. But if waste streams are small in volume, it is unlikely to be cost effective for a waste management specialist to collect it at a price that the business can afford.
This is not just an issue for smaller businesses. Larger enterprises also experience problems with small waste streams. While these firms may have cost-effective solutions for large volume recyclables such as cardboard, small quantities of food waste from the canteen, for example, may be commercially unattractive to many waste contractors.
Another difficulty businesses face is location. Some business units are on farms or are based in isolated spots in order to reduce potential impacts such as noise to neighbours. As such, they routinely struggle to get waste contractors to visit at a cost they can afford. Local authority waste services would be a real help to these isolated businesses.
Many businesses need helpful advice about the opportunities they can access. Councils will publish directories of waste recycling services provided by public, private and voluntary sectors. As local authorities have a genuine understanding of the locality, this advice is welcomed.
The commitment to join up with business customers to audit waste generated is a good step to producing well informed and tailored services. Good quality recycling can help return suitable materials to manufacturing processes.
Councils will need to communicate effectively the options available, and consider how diverse businesses access information. Understanding of the business and the waste they produce could be further helped by participating in local and national business networks.
As new services come on-line, advice and communications must be updated and flow to the business community. As businesses increasingly explore zero waste to landfill targets, it is important to feedback to companies whether waste was actually recycled or disposed of.
EEF is viewing the take-up with interest, and will push the Government for a national commitment if it is not widespread. As well as creating a welcome, additional income stream for local authorities, increased resource efficiency through better waste management can give businesses and the UK a real competitive edge while helping meet environmental objectives.
EEF urges local authorities to help achieve this by joining the business recycling and waste services commitment.
Susanne Baker is a senior climate and environment policy adviser at the EEF