St Peter’s Gardens, UK — Businesses across the country are struggling to do the right thing with their waste, with almost half admitting to practices that mean they are not complying fully with the law. A new survey shows that while 97 per cent of businesses think they are complying with obligations under waste ‘Duty of Care’ law, many are leaving themselves open to unlimited fines, prosecution and potential closure due to their lack of awareness.
In response, the ‘right Waste, right Place’ campaign has been launched to help businesses understand what is expected of them. It has already attracted the support of a collection of official ‘ambassadors’ spanning various sectors, including local authorities, associations such as the Federation of Small Businesses, waste management companies, housebuilders, construction companies, and charities including the National Trust.
The campaign will be publishing a booklet to provide an overview of the research and a guide to how ambassadors and other businesses can become involved. The guide will be launched at Resource Waste Management (RWM) on 13th September.
Unsure on destination and classification
The national survey by ‘right Waste, right Place’ – mainly focused on small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) within agriculture, construction and retail – found that 48 per cent of businesses didn’t know where all their waste goes when it leaves site. Over a third also admitted to not being sure whether they completed essential Waste Transfer Notes, with only half of construction businesses storing them for the required two years.
Many firms were also unsure on how to correctly classify all the waste materials they handled. Over a quarter of construction businesses didn’t always separate their waste, and firms across the sector were confused about which waste types were relevant to them.
Risks by not complying
Businesses were also unclear on the consequences of non-compliance. Over a third of agricultural companies were not aware of the penalties, and only 4 per cent of retailers knew that they risk prosecution by breaking the rules.
By not complying, businesses risk waste falling into the hands of criminals, leading to environmental, health and safety risks through fly-tipping and illegal disposal. There were a total of 962,513 incidents of fly-tipping recorded across the country in 2014-15, costing local authorities £69 million in investigations and clearance. Putting the wrong waste in the wrong place can cause problems with contamination of material destined for recycling, potentially costing businesses money.
Run by ESA, EA and CIWM
The latest campaign research is based on a survey of over 1,000 businesses across the UK. Whilst highlighting lack of awareness about ‘Duty of Care’ waste legislation, it showed that many businesses are motivated and currently take steps to do the right thing. Environmental and health considerations were the main drivers for businesses to comply, followed closely by legal requirements. A total of 89 per cent also said they took steps to securely store their waste, while 83 per cent were making some effort to separate the different types of waste created before disposing or recycling.
The campaign is centred on an interactive website and run by the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the campaign is supported by the Environment Agency (EA) and Chartered Institution for Waste Management (CIWM) and offers practical advice on how to manage waste safely and efficiently.
Right Waste, Right Place: A great way to help
Sam Corp, Head of Regulation at the ESA, commented: “Waste crime is not victimless. Dealing with the results is costing taxpayers millions of pounds each year and waste criminals can harm the environment and put local communities in danger. By not complying, local businesses could well be helping facilitate such crime by not ensuring waste is disposed of safely. The ‘right Waste, right Place’ campaign is here to help.“
Steve Lee, chief executive of CIWM, argued:“We were pleased to see that the majority of the businesses we spoke to were motivated to do the right thing and had practices in place to split different types of waste such as electronic, hazardous, plastic and metal waste. Owners of SME businesses are expected to be an expert in everything – and waste law is no exception.”
Marie Fallon, Head of Regulated Industry at the EA underlined: “It’s encouraging that this research shows businesses want to do the right thing, so providing information and guidance through the ‘right Waste, right Place’ website is a great way to help them achieve compliance, and we’d encourage businesses to engage with the campaign.”
Source: Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM)