Waste industry must engage better with SMEs

Influencing behaviour change among small businesses when it comes to better resource management is one of the biggest challenges the waste sector faces, government leaders have conceded.

Representatives from Defra, the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Environmental Services Association (ESA) were united in the view that while SMEs want to “do the right thing” when it comes to recycling, it often isn’t a priority for them.

Speaking at a conference on commercial waste in London yesterday (May 29) hosted by edieWaste and LAWR magazine, Defra’s commercial & industrial waste policy lead Louise Clark said that there was “no silver bullet” to increasing recycling rates among SMEs.

She indicated that Defra was examining the use of incentives to influence SME behaviour on recycling and said there were lessons to be learnt from voucher-based schemes for household waste, such as Recyclebank.

She also pointed to the problem of multi-office blocks and estates where facilities management companies and landlords don’t offer a trade waste recycling service on-site. “We are working with some big companies in this arena to change that,” she told delegates.

In a slight dig at Defra, LGA’s environment board vice chair Cllr Clyde Loakes said the Waste Review “missed an opportunity” to mandate local authorities to offer trade waste recycling services.

He added: “You’ve got to keep pushing [SMEs to recycle more] but we need to have the tools to do this.”

Meanwhile ESA’s director of policy Matthew Farrow said it was the duty of waste companies to provide SMEs with simple solutions in dealing with their waste in a more resource-efficient way.

“SMEs have concerns around business contracts [for waste management], they often find them hard to understand,” he said, adding that the ESA was working with the Federation of Small Businesses to address this, possibly in the form of a distributed leaflet that would simplify the terminology.

Farrow also felt that if more competition was introduced in the private sector for trade waste recycling collections, it would be of benefit for small business owners.

Maxine Perella

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