Why UK landfills are a ticking time bomb

UK businesses play a critical role in reducing the amount of waste directed to Britain's overstretched landfills. Ecosurety's Robbie Staniforth writes.

One day, all UK workers will grab their daily bought sandwich in a plain recycled box, with no cellophane window. Consumers will also buy goods based on what they come wrapped in, or how sustainable a company’s supply chain is.

Why? Because the UK is committed to reducing the huge levels of litter on our streets and increasing the amount of rubbish recycled by households and businesses. Complex packaging puts consumers off recycling, leaving it to be thrown into general waste. Packaging that does make it into recycling bins can also be too challenging for recyclers to process.

Public opinion is mounting against unnecessary packaging. Many consumers are fed up when their modestly-sized product ordered online arrives inside acres of unnecessary plastic and paper, in a proportionally enormous box.

The UK government already looks to business to help cover the cost of recycling packaging, batteries, and electronic and electrical gadgets.  But it wants it to do more.

With the country predicted to start to run out of landfill sites by as early as next year, the Government wants businesses to come up with new solutions.

Already, a company that produces or handles over 50 tonnes of packaging and turns over £2m a year, has to pay to offset the amount it produces. The money goes towards recycling initiatives across the UK.

Companies that import or manufacture products containing batteries, or that have electronic or electrical components, must also pay to recycle those materials via approved recycling depots.

Even businesses that simply sell batteries still have ensure they collect spent ones, take back used batteries off consumers, or offer recycling information.

While those that exceed 250 employees, or have an annual turnover in excess of £38.98m, and have no official plan for how they are going to reduce their carbon footprint, could be fined between £5,000 and £50,000 by the Environment Agency under what’s known as ESOS (Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme) regulations.

For fast-growing companies, some, or all of the above can come as a bolt from the blue.

Many suddenly find themselves having to fill in forms and submit figures to the Environment Agency to prove they are supporting UK recycling. It can be onerous, and takes away from day to day business operations.

Most simply give the additional paperwork to somebody in Facilities, or even HR, to deal with. Some engage resource efficiency specialists such as ourselves to make sure they comply.

We believe companies that simply fulfil their obligations are missing a real opportunity to properly look at their operations, supply chains, or products, to see where financial and environmental efficiencies could be made.

For example, so many companies could sit down and thrash out how much packaging they really need for transporting products to shops, and to consumers, and could set milestone goals to reduce it.

Actions such as these could win vital brownie points for your brand, as well as help the organisation cut overall costs, and better meet recycling obligations.

At Ecosurety, we believe the pressure from the public and government on businesses and brands to reduce, reuse and recycle will only increase. Businesses that do their bit could not only save money, but also let their customers know they are on the side of the environment.

Robbie Staniforth is the commercial manager at resource efficiency specialist Ecosurety.

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

Related Topics