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Going green leaves SMEs seeing stars as confusion reigns

As the temperature cranks up on the need to recycle it seems that many of the nation’s businesses are less than clear about what they are supposed to be doing.

Admittedly not the sexiest of subjects, a recent survey revealed that the vast majority of SMEs didn’t have a clue about what they should be doing with their hazardous waste and recycling.

Fines and prosecution

Waste and recycling specialist company Biffa conducted a survey on 1000 small and medium sized business in the UK to identify whether they understand what they were supposed to be doing with their rubbish. The results were quite simply astounding.

Just one in five companies were getting rid of their hazardous waste legally, leaving a shocking 80% of businesses following illegal and potentially dangerous practices.

Britain has strict rules around the disposal of hazardous waste and failing to follow them can result in prosecution and a hefty fine.

Hazardous waste is a term used to cover a multitude of items ranging from household goods such as light bulbs and aerosols to industrial goods such as oily rags and batteries. Technology such as computer or electrical equipment is also considered to be hazardous waste.

Yes, batteries are classed as hazardous waste

Since 2005 there have been separate laws relating to these goods, and requires that they are collected separately to be treated and disposed of. Any items which have the potential to be harmful to either the environment or to the health of humans must be disposed of in this way.

Small amounts

One of the factors which can lead to confusion is the amount of waste which is required before it is considered to be hazardous and subject to its own legislation.

Many businesses believe that because the amount they get through is so trivial that the guidelines will not apply in their circumstances but that isn’t the case.

The CEO of Biffa, Ian Wakelin, admitted that many of the companies in the survey may only have been disposing of ‘tiny’ amounts of waste but said that there was a total lack of understanding about how the regulations apply.

He went on to explain, “… if your company throws out an old computer, polish cans or even a tin of leftover paint, by law they need to be treated properly.”

You can take control of what goes into the garbage truck

And this is how many SMEs could find themselves inadvertently breaching the law, and facing a huge fine.

Survey results

Many of the businesses admitted in their responses that staff may not have been properly trained to know what to do with the rubbish, with many saying that they had little confidence that recycling and waste disposal could be handled properly.

Almost one in three acknowledged that their staff wouldn’t be able to either identify or dispose of hazardous materials properly.

When asked to identify some of the most common items of hazardous waste, there were many types of product which were regularly overlooked. Wood, empty tins and cans and metal were the three materials which were the least recognised, scoring just 5%, 16% and 14% respectively.

Not complying with the regulations on the disposal of waste products doesn’t just carry the possibility of a heavy fine, there’s also a huge possibility of environment damage with detrimental effects on both the planet and the human population so these results will be a blow to environmental campaigners in Britain.

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