Waste is something all organisations have to deal with to varying degrees, ranging from small amounts of office waste to large manufacturing facilities producing hazardous waste and packaging. One thing that’s true for all organisations producing waste is its visibility and perception to employees and customers sends a clear signal to all of how your organisation manages its wider environmental impacts.
When working with iiE members of all sizes and sectors, the majority of employees will state waste and recycling is key in the fight against climate change. This can make your waste management choices more impactful than just reducing waste costs. This amongst many other issues such as reduced costs in wasted materials, decreased waste management costs and reduced environmental impacts, all point to a need for greater management of waste. The waste hierarchy is an important tool when looking at your organisation’s waste and where possible prevention offers the greatest cost and carbon savings. A basic waste audit can highlight areas where an organisation is creating waste and opportunities to eliminate this can be identified. Our waste guides on the iiE Members area can help you identify and implement waste prevention and reduction measures.
According to the Office for National Statistics, commercial and industrial waste accounts for roughly a fifth (19%) of all waste generation in the UK. That’s more than every household combined and is only set to increase.
All commercial waste in the UK is governed by the Waste Duty of Care statutory guidance that came out of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This makes provision for the safe management of waste to protect human health and the environment. This legislation applies to anyone who imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats, disposes of, or are a dealer or broker that has control of, controlled waste. For most organisations this affects them when they are sourcing waste management services, as it is a legal requirement under this legislation to ensure they use a registered waste business. Organisations have a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to ensure that waste transferred to another waste holder is managed correctly throughout its complete journey to disposal or recovery.
You can do this by:
checking the next waste holder is authorised to take the waste
asking the next waste holder where they are going to take the waste, and checking that the intended destination is authorised to accept that waste
carry out more detailed checks if you suspect the waste is not being handled in line with the duty of care - for example, requesting evidence that your waste has arrived at the intended destination and that it has been accurately described
The Government is also targeting waste through a plethora of new waste legislation that will impact businesses across the board. The key drivers for change in this area are the Resources and Waste Strategy and The Environment Bill, both of which are set to change the way waste is managed in the UK.
One of the ways the Government hopes to drive down volumes of waste and increase recycling is to push the costs further on to the waste producers. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy tool which requires producers to be responsible for the packaging they place on the UK market at the end of its life. It reinforces the 'polluter pays' principle which states those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to human health or the environment. Under EPR proposals packaging producers will be made responsible for the full net cost of managing the packaging they place on the market. The UK Government first announced their intention to introduce EPR for packaging in the Resources and Waste Strategy published in 2018 and have since published several consultations. The new EPR system will replace the current Packaging Waste Regulations with a phased implementation from 2024.
In England, business waste recycling is not currently mandatory and although most big businesses do recycle, some do more than others and there are plenty of medium, small and micro businesses that don’t do any recycling at all.
The new Single Use Plastic Tax that came in to force in April this year is another incentive the Government is using. At a cost of £200 per tonne for all plastic packaging manufactured in the UK or imported which does not contain at least 20% recycled content, it looks to reduce plastic waste and drive up recycled content in packaging by 40% as well as boost recycling rates.
Food waste is another issue high on the Government’s agenda and consultations are under way to ban food waste going to landfill or incineration. Food waste has huge environmental implications as the carbon required to get food from farm to fork is vast and decomposing food waste is a huge greenhouse gas emitter. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that food waste contributes 8-10% of total man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Every measure a business can employ to reduce food waste will have huge positive implications for the environment. The Waste Resource and Action Programme (WRAP) have worked in this area for many years and have lots of useful resources to help you reduce food waste in your businesses and home.
Examining your organisation’s waste through regularly waste audits gives you a real opportunity to identify areas for improvement and efficiencies. I love a bin! It tells me so much about an organisation and how it views its resources. We need to move away from looking at waste as rubbish and viewing it as a resource. We have some great examples with our iiE members of innovative ways of reducing waste, from packaging reuse to process changes and simple incentives like Tupperware Tuesday where employees are encouraged to bring lunch in reusable packaging. Managing waste effectively is a win win for your organisation with huge payoffs in all areas. Use our iiE member guides to start or further your waste journey.
Principal Consultant and North East Regional Lead