How Can Businesses Apply the Waste Hierarchy in The UK?

Although the importance of waste management is often overlooked by British business owners, the latest data from the government Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) shows that more than environmental damage can come from this lack of responsibility. As 25% of the waste in the UK is generated by businesses, waste disposal costs are growing.

The landfill tax, which is compulsory for any business that disposes of waste in landfill sites, has been getting higher and higher, and experts warn that fees will continue to grow because of Brexit and China’s recent ban on waste exports. There is also the gate fee, which is now at £107 per tonne.

All of these factors combined have forced UK businesses to look more closely at the way they handle waste and understand that recycling is the best long-term solution – both environmentally and financially. Public authorities recommend and promote a waste hierarchy that places landfill as the last resort:

  • Reduce the amount of waste produced

The main idea behind the waste hierarchy is to keep waste quantity to a minimum. In the ideal circular waste economy, businesses are sustainable and employ production processes that leave behind as little waste as possible. Waste minimisation is an excellent long-term strategy for businesses, leading to improved product quality, reduced costs when purchasing materials and better reputation on the market. Furthermore, it makes it easier for companies to meet environmental policies and comply with existing waste regulations.

Waste minimisation has three main principles, also called the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. In order to minimise waste, businesses can follow these techniques:

  • Optimise the number of raw materials used in production
  • Reuse scrap metal
  • Monitor production processes and invest more resources in quality control
  • Exchange waste: use waste products from one process as raw materials for another process
  • Place waste compactors on-site to reduce the amount of waste. Apart from recycling bins, balers and compactors are some of the most popular ways of dealing with waste responsibly and, because there is a wide range of products to maintain these machines, they make excellent long-term investments.
  • Minimise product packaging and ensure that product packaging can be recycled
  • Reuse produced waste

Reusing produced waste is essential in a circular economy. Apart from helping the environment, it can play a major role in reviving local economies and create expansion opportunities for business sectors in small communities.

However, business owners need to understand that reusing manufacturing materials should only be done after a controlled recovery process. Otherwise, the resulting materials can be contaminated or damaged. To streamline the process, many experts recommend taking the products back to their original manufacturer, who can disassemble them and use them in the manufacturing of other products. For example, business owners who want to replace office equipment can take it back to the manufacturer instead of throwing it away. Xerox and Kodak receive old photocopiers, printers and cartridges as part of waste reuse campaigns.

Another great way to reuse waste is waste exchange – a strategy that involves selling or giving away the waste resulted from production to another party who will benefit from it.

  • Recover waste by recycling and composting

As per the Environmental Protection Act 1990, “all businesses have a duty of care to keep their waste safe and dispose of all their recyclable materials and commercial waste.” In practice, this means that any waste generated by that business, no matter if it’s an office, factory, shop, medical or academic institution, must be recycled in accordance with existing regulations. In the current context, there simply is no room on the market for a business that discards the importance of recycling bins and waste balers.

Not only does it risk a fine from local authorities, but also a ruined reputation. Waste management and helping the environment in general are heated topics generating a lot of debate in the United Kingdom, citizens want to be involved and they are taking a stand against public and private companies that do not apply green policies. In addition, adding recycling units on-premises also creates a safer, cleaner and healthier work environment that promotes employee satisfaction and reduces the risk of workplace accidents.

  • Send remaining waste to landfill

At present, EU directives are setting gradual steps to meet the ultimate objective – zero waste. This might seem almost impossible to achieve right now, but the industry has taken great strides in reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. And, considering that limited landfill space is a problem in the UK, especially post-Brexit, businesses are advised to consider this is as the last alternative.

Any by-product that cannot be reused or recycled can be send to landfill, but first, it must be pre-treated. To avoid contamination, all waste must be sent to the landfill only by an authorised waste collection company.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.