Waste For Sale – Several Careful Owners

New regulations on waste are set to be introduced in January, and that means local retailers will likely have to change the way they dispose of all manner of waste, or face the possibility of fines, meaning it is already time to start planning.

by David Gibson

How often do you think about waste? Well, the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 mean you are going to have to think about it more. More regulations? Just what every hard pressed retail business needs! Of course not, but let us take a step back and see what the opportunities as well as the challenges are.

The basics
From 1st January 2014 every business must present dry goods (metal, plastic, glass, paper and card) separately for collection. If you run a food business producing over 50kg of food waste a week you must present that for separate collection (the requirement will extend to all food businesses which produce over 5kg of food waste a week from 1st January 2016). Where food collections are available it will be illegal to dispose food into the public sewer, for example by maceration. Businesses located in a rural area are exempt from the food waste requirements.
There are fines for non compliance but, more importantly, you will simply not be able to organise local authority kerb collection or have your waste management contractor collect unless separation has occurred.

The big picture
It is all part of a worldwide trend: EU Directives, Climate Change and the now well known Waste Hierarchy – prevention; preparation for re-use; recycling; recovering other value and disposal (landfill). You might for example recall the Courtauld Commitment in 2005 to reduce packaging, it is all inter connected and part of a trend, including the increase in landfill tax rates.
In 2011 the UK was seen as one of the dirty men of Europe, with only Greece and Portugal having a worse recycling record. But a lot has been happening. It is a transformative period, shifting the mindset of waste as a problem to it being viewed as a resource, part of the mainstream not just green agenda.
In 2010 the Scottish Government announced an ambitious target of 70% recycling by 2025, with a 50% target by 2013. The Scottish Conservatives have recently described the 2013 target as “unachievable”. There are undoubtedly big challenges ahead if those targets are to get in sight. Some materials, such as plastic, can only be recycled to plastic once and thereafter can only be down cycled and it is often difficult to prevent contamination. The model that depends on a constant supply of waste material for energy from waste plants seems counter intuitive against a dwindling supply of waste in the system.
There is disquiet about “incinerators”. That said, concerns can be over stated and modern gasification processes and other environmentally friendly methods such as anaerobic digestion have successfully been integrated elsewhere, we are playing catch up.

The Local Effect
Back to the local effect, as a retailer what should you be doing? It needs to be given early thought. There may be issues of lack of storage for separation or staffing consequences. Some immediate suggestions include:

  • Get to know the Regulations and how they affect your own business now
  • Reduce waste. Really examine your needs. Almost every business should be able to make cash savings. There are many consultancies offering services to support this exercise. Zero Waste Scotland provides a free online training course of resource efficiency
  • What are the alternatives for collection? Will you be dependent simply on kerb side collection by the local authority or would it be more cost effective to contract with a waste management company?
  • Can you join forces with other businesses in your area, pool resources and/or negotiate a better contract with a waste management contractor as a group?
  • Where do you fit within the waste chain and within your community, do your research, there might be new business opportunities for you?
  • Is financial support available? As a retailer significant grants or funding are probably unlikely as Government money is aimed more towards local authorities and innovation funding. However, take nothing for granted and do your research as to what is available for you.

Plan ahead and you might be pleasantly surprised there are benefits in thinking about waste management. Annoying as it is, there is truth in the old “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”!

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