The question on the lips of many people worried about the environment right now is ‘who holds the key to the UK’s recycling efforts?’, and the answer coming from the media is simple: businesses. At first, we felt that businesses were unfairly targeted and that in fact, we are all key, but as we dug deeper, we were shocked at what we found out.


Read on as we explore this topic.


Why are businesses being targeted?

Let’s say that right now, domestic recycling is doing pretty good, and construction recycling is going well too, of course they could be better, but their performance is solid. For businesses, who produce about a quarter of all the UK’s waste, something is going quite wrong, and as a result they are regularly shelling out for the £88.95 per tonne (as of July 2018) landfill charge.


Businesses are being targeted because quite often, they don’t care and are being irresponsible with their waste. A recent study performed by found that 80% of UK businesses had no green policy in place, and were not separating disposable and recyclable waste streams. This is a very bad reflection of the UK, and is damaging for the 20% of businesses who are making a proactive effort to do good for the environment.


228,000,000 tonnes of business waste produced each year

That statistic is no joke, it’s a dangerous indicator of how little businesses are valuing their resources. The resources that were found to have been recycled the least were paper and cardboard, plastics, electrical waste, old computers, printer cartridges, and green waste. That doesn’t leave much else.


There are no official statistics on how many businesses are willing to fly tip, but what we do know is that in 2016, 936,000 fly tip incidents were reported to councils. We can only imagine how much of this waste came from businesses who were willing to break the law and cut corners to save some money.


What can you do as a business in the UK?

Perhaps a good place to start is to accept that you have a problem, and a waste need that must be addressed. The second thing to do is to ask for help. There are businesses up and down the country who can help you introduce a waste strategy, make it easy to implement resource efficiency behaviour in the workplace, and even make sure you are energy efficient.


Partner up with a waste company that has incredibly high recycling rates, so that you know your waste is in good hands. In many cases, if you are producing enough recyclable waste, you can store it, compact it, and sell it to recycling companies. If 60-80% of office waste is paper, imagine how quickly you could create a bale, sell it, and use the money to buy new paper. Even better, you can find companies who have digital solutions that help you reduce your waste. Simple ideas, like switching from plastic and paper cups to ceramics, or introducing tablets for processes instead of using paper, can help you massively reduce waste. These policies can then be used as sales and marketing tools too.



It seems that businesses do have the potential to lift the UK’s recycling efforts, but perhaps not the incentive. If the maths suggest that businesses produce 25% of our waste, and 80% are not recycling, then 20% of the UK’s generated waste is not being given a fair chance to be recycled or recovered. Those hundreds of millions of tonnes could save the UK billions of pounds in revenue if they were avoided, but it seems that is not enough, so perhaps legislative change is required. Government, the ball is in your court.

Author: Gary Watson
Published: July 18, 2018