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The business of reducing waste

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Leading by example in business recycling – In 2017, most of us are aware of our responsibilities and legal requirements regarding recycling in the UK and, business owners are urged to “lead by example” in terms of commitment to reducing waste. Firms now have to demonstrate they have considered waste prevention and recycling options, rather than sending materials straight to landfill and, new legislations regarding environmental issues for business in the UK include as the ErP Mandate and the new regulations regarding NOx and SOx emissions for the heating and ventilation industry as well as the UK Environmental controls regarding the use of chemicals, land development and the disposal of toxic waste into bodies of water.  

Figures show, however, that most UK businesses, whilst meeting legal requirements, are showing little further commitment. One of the main reasons for this is, of course, financial – industrial recycling costs money and man-power, the expenditure of which can be restrictive for a small business.

Other, equally important, factors include a lack of knowledge about the impact on the environment, a lack of interest and the difficulty of getting local organisations to collect what can amount a relatively small amount of recycling from a business premises.

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Currently, only 22% of the 300 million tonnes of plastic products produced annually is recycled – a shocking figure when you consider the fact that it takes 450 years to break down a plastic milk carton. Something to think about the next time you put the kettle on in the office!

Above and beyond the call of duty

Whilst many businesses willingly fulfill their commitment to recycling waste from their premises and proactively do business with companies who do the same, surveys show that few business owners are aware of the possibilities for purchasing equipment and other assets which have been produced from recycled material.

It seems that, for the most part, people know what to do with the waste but not what is subsequently done with it! Those who are aware of the available recycled products state a concern that those products may be expensive or of a substandard quality which simply is not the case.

There are a number of companies who currently specialise in supplying high quality recycled products including stationery, storage materials, equipment and furnishings, many of which, rather than the shabby chic style that many would expect, are practical, hard-wearing and extremely attractive. The average sofa is made up of wood, steel, foam and fabric and, statistics show that half a billion trees are cut down every year to produce furniture with 32 board feet going into making just one sofa.

For organisations such as hotels, nursing homes and schools, this amounts to a colossal outlay of materials for items which can be made without depleting the planet’s resources. Companies such as Pacific Ocean, producers of high quality durable outdoor furniture, manufacture chairs, tables and sofas from recycled materials – Pacific’s Adirondack chairs make use of 579 recycled bottle tops but are sturdy, beautiful and, most importantly, kind to the environment.

Pacific has recently supplied its outdoor furniture to forward-thinking business premises in Brighton and Torquay but there’s still a way to go in convincing business owners that recycled doesn’t mean costly or substandard.

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Red lighting legislation on green issues

As awareness and the above legislative trends increase, the suggestion is that we can expect further – and further reaching – legislation in the UK in the near future affecting every kind of industry. For business owners, this will mean increased responsibilities and commitment to the environment which is why savvy business owners should be looking not just to comply with current legislation but should, instead, be looking to the future in order to predict future legislations and rulings to ensure that they are not caught out.

It’s estimated that UK companies are paying around £1.5 million in fines every year to the Environment Agency as retribution for breaking environmental laws, with £375,000 being paid by Northumbrian Water for pumping raw sewage into a tributary of the river Tyne, while Anglian Water Services has made two separate payments of £100,000 for pollution incidents that killed fish.

Heineken UK and Kerry Ingredients also paid large sums for pollution incidents, while Filippo Berio UK and Sandoz agreed six-figure payments for failing to recover or recycle packaging waste. As well as the financial loss incurred by the fines, offences such as these produce adverse publicity which may prove harmful to a company’s reputation.

As legislation evolves and increases, these figures are set to increase – for the moment, the Environment Agency favours fining business offenders, with the proceeds going to projects which help wildlife and the environment but, as these laws get tougher, we are likely to start to see more prosecutions and, even custodial sentences, being handed out to repeat offenders, something which is likely to spell disaster, particularly for smaller businesses.

Nicci Rae

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