The London council is working with its contractor Serco to increase the number of its commercial clients and drive up recycling levels in the local business community.

Last January Bexley became one of the first councils to sign up to the WRAP-administered business recycling and waste services commitment. It currently works with around 1,500 businesses to recycle paper and cardboard, glass, cans and plastic bottles and food/garden waste.

Bexley first introduced a recycling service for small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in 1997, collecting paper and cardboard. The council extended the service in 2004 to include plastic bottles, cans and glass and in 2007 to include food/garden waste.

The collection services have been added on to the household recycling and residual waste collection rounds. Bexley’s head of waste & street service, Stephen Didsbury, said that one of the reasons why the council had signed the commitment was to build up more commercial clients.

“It gave us a reason to publicise the service,” he said. “It helps with the marketing and it has helped us focus on our services. We have changed some things. Because it’s a business waste commitment, we’ve now called it a business waste service.”

Didsbury added that the council was working with Serco to market the service more actively and improve recycling levels in the local business community.

“We’ve been recycling paper for 16 years and we’ve still got customers throwing paper away. It’s not like householders where we can control the system better. They don’t have to use us. If we are too harsh, they can go somewhere else. You’ve got to do it with persuasion. You’ve got to encourage them to want to do it.”

The commitment sets out 12 principles that should underlie a business recycling and waste service and WRAP is calling on more local authorities to sign up.

It has identified a number of business cases for providing a recycling and waste service for SMEs, including revenue generation for the local authority, reducing the costs associated with fly-tipping and supporting the national waste strategy.

Councils like Bexley, which have been working with SMEs for over 15 years, underline the important role that local authorities can play in helping local businesses to increase recycling and divert waste away from landfill.

“Unless you’ve got large quantities, where let’s say a big paper company would be interested in collecting the material, smaller companies who’ve only the equivalent of a wheelie bin’s worth of paper a week really haven’t got much choice of who to recycle with,” said Didsbury.

“That’s something that we can market and use. It helps us get more waste customers as well, because we provide a wider range of services.”

LAWR will be profiling Bexley’s service in its July issue.

Nick Warburton

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