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Recycling and Waste Management: what’s going on and where do I start?

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

World Recycling day aims to raise awareness of the importance of recycling, which is crucial for improving reducing waste and reaching the nationally legislated goal of net zero by 2050.

With COP 26 being hosted in November, there is likely to be more focus on improving waste management across the UK. Therefore, this blog gives examples of Chamber member activity on waste and resources, and introduces businesses to how they can start improving their waste management. Furthermore, some regional and national support available is detailed at the end.

Background and policy overview

Improving waste and resource efficiency could create over 200,000 jobs and add £75 billion to the UK economy. As a consequence, the UK Government has targeted the elimination of avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 and achieving zero avoidable waste by 2050. This is supported by the upcoming 2022 Plastic Packaging Tax, effective from April 2022.

What businesses are doing

Every month more companies are starting to realise the benefits that come with reducing waste, which include better business and investment opportunities as well as meeting legal and compliance obligations.

Many businesses are taking action by reducing their plastic, paper and metal usage but also increasing reuse and recycling.  Some examples across the Chamber network include:

  • Mondelez recently aims to reduce their virgin plastic use in rigid plastic by 25% by 2025.
  • Balfour Beatty has targeting zero waste by 2040, with a 40% reduction by 2030.
  • University of Birmingham and Aston University have benefited from an internal reuse scheme, which saved them both over £50,000 (warp-it scheme).
  • SF Recruitment Group replaced plastics with bamboo, a more environmentally sustainable alternative.

The waste hierarchy

If you’d like to join companies across the Chamber network on improving your waste management and don’t know where to start, the waste hierarchy provides a good framework for businesses to use, see below. This shows the preferred steps for intervening in the waste management process.

 

What can businesses do to improve their recycling and waste management?

First, understand where your waste is coming from. This can be achieved through speaking with employees and taking time to identify how and why waste is generated in business processes. From here, understand the waste cycles in your business, this includes where you purchase the material, the processes it is used in to when it is disposed.

Once you’ve mapped this process, use the waste hierarchy to explore what methods can be implemented to reduce the waste, this requires communicating with your employees (across different departments) and suppliers. You may recognise preventative measures, such as reducing printing paper or you may find ways to reuse and pallets in your delivery process.

The waste type must be categorised and managed appropriately. For example, many businesses dispose of their waste by skip (general waste), which may comprise of recyclable materials (i.e. aluminium, cardboard, plastic). Identifying recyclable waste, and then implementing separate system to sort recyclable materials can lead to lower costs (reduced landfill tax and waste collection costs), bring in revenue (through selling recyclable material) and improve your compliance.

Throughout the process communicate with your waste management company, as they can advise on the best steps to take to achieve your goals. It will also help identify what is technologically, economically and environmentally practical to achieve with your business waste. Otherwise the WRAP website has plenty of guidance for waste management, see here.

Finally, implement a formal plan, document the process and keep records, set goals and showcase your success, such as progress to a zero waste to landfill target. This shows stakeholders (suppliers, customers, competitors) how your business is taking action on improving environmental performance.

What support is available?

If you’d like to do more with your waste and resource management, there is support available regionally and nationally, see below.

Regionally:

  • Birmingham and Solihull Industrial Symbiosis Project (BASIS): Identifies business by-products, wastes and other resources that can be used by other businesses. See more here.
  • Alternative Raw Materials with Low Impact (ARLI): Supports SMEs in developing cost-effective processes and products, which use raw and waste materials to improve energy efficiency. See more here.
  • Smarterials Programme: Supports SME growth and development through research, testing and expert partnerships in material science. See more here.

Nationally:

  • Funding and Grants are available through
    • Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), see more here.
    • Resource Action Fund: supports resource efficiency projects, with the goal of diverting, reducing, and better managing waste. See more here.

What is the Chamber doing?

Waste management and the net zero transition presents a range of opportunities and challenges for businesses. Given the wide ranging difficulties businesses are currently facing, environmental action may be taken at different speeds. Nonetheless, the Chamber will support businesses with relevant guidance, best practice and advice through our network. One example of this is our ‘Net Zero and the Business Community Briefing Paper’.

See our ‘Net Zero and the Business Community Briefing Paper’ here.