According to WRAP, approximate figures show that around 1.2 million office desks and 1.8 million office chairs are disposed of via landfill each year in the UK. 

Stirling Silver Ltd was founded in 2016, to restrict this unnecessary practice. With the UK government looking to businesses to recycle 75% by 2020, we believe that now is the best time for businesses to choose ethical office removals specialists such as Stirling Silver Ltd.

 
A discussion around the Government directives for businesses to recycle 75% by 2020 

Waste reduction and recycling has been a major topic for discussion since 2000 when the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed the connection between waste production and global warming (Bradbury, 2017).

The UK has set targets based on the EU directives until 2020, and should comply with these targets. Upon completion, the oversight committee set up will give a detailed report of the outcome and the Government’s efforts on reaching the targets. There will be an element of political embarrassment if these targets are drastically over-promised and under-delivered. Therefore, these targets need to be well thought out and worked towards to ensure the best possible outcome for the environment and for the Governments image also (Institute for Government, 2012).  The revised UK Business Packaging Waste Recycling Targets for 2020 are now in force. The targets are set for each packaging material as below, and the overall rate of packaging recycling by 2020 is 75.4%.  

The UK Government suggests that any waste produced by any business activity is classed as business waste, this includes waste produced from construction, demolition, agriculture and industry. It also points out the responsibilities of businesses waste management simply and concisely. The first responsibility as a business is to everything reasonably to keep waste to a minimum by in order of importance; preventing, reusing, recycling or recovering waste. It is also the responsibility of the business to ensure that a waste carrier disposes of the waste in a legal manner (Waste and Environment Agency, 2018). Packaging is classed as any material used to hold, protect, handle, deliver and present goods. This includes but is not limited to; pallets, bags, shrink wrap, tubes and clothes hangers (Coffey, 2018).

UK National Business Targets are set by the government to determine packaging producers’ recycling targets (Eminton, 2018).  The previous directives set by the EU focussed on obligated packaging producers, but the UK has now surpassed the EU’s targets in order to account for the packaging managed by non-obligated businesses also i.e. those who do not produce packaging materials. These UK Business Targets aim to ensure the UK as a whole complies with the EU standard packaging recycling targets of 75% by 2030 (EC, 2017).  The UK’s target for business packaging recycling is 75.4% by 2020 (HM Treasury, 2017).


Although the EU target of reaching 65% recycled packaging by 2035 was previously met with animosity by the UK government. With suggestion that the UK could not support such a high binding target (Carrington, 2018a); after Greenpeace unearthed the generalised hypocrisy found in these statements when looking at the promises that the UK government had previously made (Ross, 2018) in March 2018, the government had released that they would stick to an even more demanding target of 75% by 2020 (Carrington, 2018b). 

The UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Environment Secretary Michael Gove have endorsed the importance of acting on the reversal of plastic pollutants which are devastating the oceans and wildlife and a sum of £61.4bn is being committed to developing new methods of removing and preventing plastic waste. Furthermore, Theresa May suggests the ban of all plastic straws in the UK by as early as 2019 (Hughes, 2018). However, with the UK averaging the use of 42bn straws annually (Corbin, 2018), this ban will put tremendous pressure on restaurants, coffee shops and hospitals to find adequate alternatives in time. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has suggested that the UK recycling target, is putting unfair impositions on the community and that the government has downplayed the potential costs to the business, domestic community and local authorities (Mathiesen, 2018).

It is estimated that may take at least 5 years to clean up only 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Slat, 2018). Furthermore, when plastics are broken down they become what’s known as micro plastics. These small fibres are also made from tyres, road surface and many other items, such as synthetic fabrics. Research into micro plastics contaminating city water by Orb has shown over 80 per cent of tap water and bottled water tested over five continents contain micro plastics, with the USA, Beirut and Lebanon ranking highest with 94% of the water samples containing micro plastics, and Europe ranking the lowest with 72% of water samples containing micro plastics (Kusoth et al., 2018).

 

Research into Health Concerns over Plastic

Research suggests that the presence of micro plastics in the body which releases chemical phthalates, causes the body to create estrogenic hormones to compensate for the phthalates. When this hormone is produced over a long period of time can lead to a number of health problems including breast and prostate cancer and can reduce the effect of chemotherapeutic medicines (Hsai et al., 2012).

 

Further fears after The British Antarctic Survey (2018) about the dense pollution of micro plastics in the Arctic, measuring an average of 12,000 particles per 1 litre of sea ice has lead scientists to believe that the chemical phthalates released by plastics are causing an adverse effect of male polar bears with the development of two sets of testicles. This is thought to be caused by the leaching of plastic bottles in the Arctic Ocean causing hormone changes in developmental stages of the male polar bear foetuses (Heffer, 2018).

 

 Another study into the way laboratory mice react to the ingestion of micro plastics showed the build up of micro plastics in the liver, intestines and organs which can lead to blood disorders, gastro problems and brain disorders (Deng et al., 2017), although these results cannot be fully correlated with the human body due to the sheer size differences in the organs, therefore more studies into the effects of micro plastics on the human body is needed to determine the facts from the theories.

 

To tackle the issues surrounding the yearly increase in waste production, the UK government aims to increase recycled packaging in business to 75% by 2020 (DEFRA, 2016).

Although recycling in the UK increased 26.5% from 2001 to 2010 which was the fastest growth seen in any of the European countries there is still speculation that this target will not be reached (Vaughan, 2013). This is because, statistical analysis shows that in between 2011-2012 the recycling rates have risen by just 0.7% with most regions showing a decline in recycling rates. In 2016 - 2017, out of 350 councils across the UK with ongoing comparable figures; 173 showed lower recycling rates compared with 2011-2012. There was also a majority decline in the amount of recycling domestic waste within the same period. This is arguably due to the £61m decline in local council’s budget for recycling services from 2013 to 2017.

Furthermore, local council budgets for all waste management services have been reduced by £400m from 2011 to 2017. These declining recycling figures and budget cuts show a downfall in the recycling trends and suggest that reaching the UK Governments targets for 2020 may not be possible (Rhodes, 2018).

Landfill Tax

 “Pay-as-you-throw” schemes (PAYT) are already in place across the UK to discourage waste sent to landfill by placing taxes on the amount of waste dumped. This landfill tax was introduced in 1996 at £7 per tonne. This tax has steadily increased and the current standard rate for disposing waste into landfill stands at £88.95 (Griffiths, 2018). There was support from the industry and a study from friends of the Earth (1999) found that in the first 3 years, 81% of companies in the UK showed a decline in waste sent to landfill. However, around 40% of companies interviewed still sent waste to landfill despite the tax. It is argued that the PAYT taxes are not sufficient to discourage businesses with a high turnover to find alternatives to curbing their waste production. It is debated that this tax is an unsubstantial amount when taking into account a company’s overall turnover (Clarke et al, 2013).

 
Tax Credits

Tax credits are available if businesses send waste from landfill to be re-used, recycled or incinerated (Griffiths, 2018). These Research and Development tax credit schemes paid over £11.4 million in tax relief of which 120,000 claims were made between 2013 to 2014, the average claim in this period was £48,500. This tax credit has been implemented in order to encourage R&D into new methods of waste disposal or re-use, and is a successful incentive for R&D waste businesses. However, it is argued that traditional businesses would not see the necessity in putting time and money into R&D for waste disposal, as it could interrupt its business operations. Furthermore, the risks of dealing with possible hazardous materials can put businesses off considering this line of enquiry altogether (Patterson, 2016).

 
Legislation for business Waste Disposal

The legislations which affect business waste disposal programmes in the UK are;

  1. The Producer Responsibility Obligations Regulations (1997)

This affects medium to large scale companies that produce, use or sell packaged goods. To comply with this regulation the company must firstly apply each year by April 7th as a packaging producer, meet the recovery and recycling obligations set for the company and submit evidence in the form of a certificate of compliance by January 31st the following year (Coffey, 2018).

 

  1. The UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations (2007)

 introduced to reduce electrical waste sent to landfill, which affects any company which manufactures, rebrands, imports or sells electrical items in the UK. To comply with this legislation for various WEEE products disposal information should be produced for consumers to know how to dispose of correctly. Each WEEE item should display a wheelie bin with a cross to make the user aware that it cannot be sent to landfill with general waste.  Larger retailers with over 400 square meters of sales area are obligated to take back WEEE items less than 25cm on their longest side from consumers without the obligation to buy further WEEE products. Otherwise join a Distributer Take Back Scheme which enables local authorities within the area to enact the scheme on the company’s behalf (HM Government, 2018b).

  1. The Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations (2009)

This affects businesses that manufacture or import batteries or sells over 52kg of batteries per year, regardless if sold separately or inside products. There are 3 categories, automotive, industrial and portable batteries.

 
Mercury levels must comply with the levels stipulated for the battery type, clearly label the batteries to assist recycling and avoid the illegal disposal through landfill or incineration (HM Government, 2018c).

  1. The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Regulations (2006)

This legislation prevents hazardous substances being used in the manufacturing of electronic and electrical equipment (EEE), companies which manufacture, distribute or import EEE’s are affected by this regulation (DEFRA, 2013).

  1. The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical Substances (REACH) Regulations (2007)

 This legislation restricts the use of chemical substances to prevent harm to users, companies affected by REACH are those who manufacture, produce, process, import or use chemicals or substances (DEFRA, 2013).

 

The Threat of Non-Compliance

If a company fails to meet the compliances stipulated, they may face criminal prosecution. For minor offences fixed penalties will be payable, for major offences higher fines are payable. This will tarnish the company’s reputation and should be avoided at all costs (Coffey, 2018).

Positive Attitudes and Benefits of Recycling in Business

There are many benefits to recycling for businesses, not only the positive environmental impact.

Jonathan Radcliffe of Business Waste UK says,

“Businesses are hitting themselves in the bank balance because of their inability or unwillingness to recycle. It’s not a great step implementing a green policy, and it saves money almost from the start.”

(Hall, 2013).

 
Lowering Costs

A quarter of all waste created in the UK is generated by businesses, Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) has worked with the Government to raise taxes on landfill which stands at £88.95 per tonne in 2018 and a further £6 per tonne gate fee, this tax is increasing each year (Mowat, 2018). Estelle Brachlianoff (2013), CEO at Veolia Environmental Services suggested that SME’s spent £463m on sending waste to landfill in 2013, not including the cost of labour and wasted energy which will increase the total exponentially, and that businesses could save millions by recycling the waste instead. Branchlianoff, suggests that it is now more expensive for businesses to send waste to landfill than it is to recycle, which has been the vision and reason for the heightened taxes over the past 10 years.

It is also suggested that if a business tracks its waste and shows a decrease in the amount of waste output, waste management services can potentially negotiate lower fees, which will further save the business money.

 
Potential Discounts

If businesses choose to be smart with their waste and trade old stock for new discounts can be seen on items such as computer systems and furniture (Pilon, 2017).

 
Potential for Grants

Grants up to £50,000 and incentives are available for environmentally focussed businesses that have good officially recognised recycling programmes and eco-friendly practices (Hadden, 2012).

 

Improved Public Image

With the importance of recycling in the media, it is becoming common place and businesses which do not actively recycle can be seen as unethical and build a negative image. It is important for businesses to stay relevant with the trends, and recycling has become a well-known issue and practice to be a part of.  

With many businesses taking on corporate social responsibility practices there is a broad range of information available to support businesses to find the right avenues to recycle its waste. Recycle-More offers advice to businesses throughout the UK to find the nearest drop off or collection agency for specific waste products such as batteries, electrical items or plastic and gives up to date information on the newest legislations affecting waste management in businesses, to ensure businesses stay informed (Gough, 2018).

There are also social enterprises and charities that are part funded by government grants to support the reduction of business waste and encourage recycling, such as First Mile, who offer affordable waste collection and tailored waste management services and education for businesses in London and Birmingham. First Mile boasts that with its services, any business can recycle more than 90% of its waste (Bratley, 2018). Enviro-Waste is a business that offers waste disposal for businesses and ensures that 92% of all the materials collected are diverted from landfill (Rubin, 2018).

Negative Attitudes and Barriers to Recycling in Business

Even though there are benefits for businesses to recycle, in 2013 it was estimated that only 20% of businesses recycled in the UK There a many reasons why businesses do not engage in recycling. A Business Waste Survey by Hall (2013) also showed that some businesses were prepared to break the law in order to reduce waste management costs, which could result in unlimited fines if found to be breaching its duty of care.

 
Time Restrictions

The time it takes to source new ways to manage waste can be a barrier to some businesses, as this will take valuable staff time when they could be being more productive for the bottom line.

 
Lack of Support from Management

In a survey into human resource management practices within the UK that promote recycling behaviour (Zibarras& Coan, 2015); 9 out of 10 respondents said that support from management level was imperative to carrying out effective recycling programmes. Involvement from management aids in changing attitudes towards recycling, which can help motivate the workforce.

 
Insufficient Staff Training

As with any new workplace procedure, the culture needs to be changed in order for it to be adopted and carried throughout the workforce. Without staff awareness and the proper training, recycling practices will not be efficient across the board. Workplaces with high employee turnover or casual workers would find it difficult to implement a good recycling culture. There is also some confusion about recycling some products and the most efficient ways to do this. Therefore, correct staff training is imperative for effective recycling programmes (Boehm, 2014).

 
Staff Motivation

The costs of waste management are often unknown by employees, and therefore the incentives to recycle and reduce these costs are not carried to the workforce who carry out the day-to-day recycling programmes. Not giving the reasons for recycling programmes can mean that staff feel disengaged from carrying out the recycling, and make the recycling programme less effective. Staff should be engaged in the recycling process and encouraged to think of better ways to reduce, re-use and recycle waste to aid in staff engagement (Young et al., 2013).

 
Poor Bin Location

Research shows that the ease of recycling and location of recycling bins has a positive correlation with the effectiveness of recycling itself.  A study into paper recycling at a large administrative office was carried out. In office 1; a memo and a single centrally positioned container for paper recycling was carried out. In office 2; a memo and desktop containers for paper recycling was introduced. The results showed that when the single container was introduced only 28% of paper was recycled, but when containers were added on each desk in close proximity of the staff, 85% - to 94% of paper was recycled. Further assessments using the desktop containers carried out 1,2,3 and 7 months following this study showed 84% - 98% of paper was recycled, showing that desktop containers is a cost-effective and long term solution to recycling paper (Brother, Krantz and McClannahan, 1994).

 
Readily Available Signage

Research has suggested that having accessible signage for staff about recycling, its benefits and how best to carry it out, improves the rates and efficiency of recycling in the workplace. It acts as a reminder to the staff and creates a clear culture within the workplace, making the desired behaviour the social norm (Patel and Holm, 2017).

Recommendations

It is clear that a lack of information and training regarding recycling is a concern for the efficiency of recycling programmes in the workplace; which can reduce the capabilities of meeting the business recycling target set by the Government. With almost half of respondents suggesting that they are unsure of what is recyclable, and over 88% of respondents not being aware of the UK Government target for businesses to reach 75% of recycled packaging waste by 2020, the employees carrying out the business recycling programmes cannot be expected to reach this goal. 

Therefore it is recommended that education be a major focus in the coming months and years leading up to this target in order to gain the best possible outcome for the UK’s recycling targets. Education and awareness of the target needs to be focussed on Directors, CEO’s and high level management in order for the information and expectations to permeate throughout the business sector. This will not only benefit the business targets but could have a knock on effect for the domestic recycling figures also, by instilling recycling as a focus to workers they will use the knowledge gathered for domestic recycling which could in turn help to educate families.

A culture change in the UK needs to be focussed on in order to make a real change to recycling figures. As suggested by Brassaw (2017); Germany has impregnated the culture of recycling throughout the domestic and business sector by creating opportunities to recycle in every street and educating young people and businesses. This along with strict recycling policies has lead to Germany being the front runners for recycling worldwide.

To educate the workforce the use of easily accessible signs about the recycling policy and what its positive effects are, would be suitable. This is known to allow the workplace to adopt this culture by having the information readily available to reference and educates the masses. This is more cost effective than training staff individually and taking too much time away from work activities, which can be harmful to the bottom line (Patel and Holm, 2017).

Staff motivation is suggested to be a downfall of recycling programmes in business, but if the above issues are address, staff motivation on recycling would be increased. Starting with the heads of the business, a new recycling culture can be passed throughout a company. Staff engagement should also be encouraged by asking for opinions on how to improve recycling programmes which helps staff take ownership of the recycling programme (Young et al., 2013).

It is suggested that although the landfill tax is the highest it has ever been and has now surpassed the cost of recycling (Brachlianoff, 2013), which means that recycling cuts costs over landfill disposal; some businesses with high revenue streams will not consider the £88.95 per tonne a drawback to waste disposal (Clarke et al., 2013). It is therefore recommended that landfill tax be set according to turnover, and be set at a considerably higher rates for larger scale businesses, in order to have the desired deterrent effect.

It is recommended that further research into the limitations of business recycling programmes takes place. This research survey has proven to be beneficial but the limitations of the time frame meant that the pool of respondents was not as wide as predicted.

Conclusion

Education throughout UK businesses starting at a top management level is imperative as the majority of Directors asked were not aware of this target set by the government. If Directors and management are not aware of this target then it cannot be expected that the workforce are going to be working towards it.

A recycling culture should be worked towards, permeating throughout the workforce using a top-down approach, by means of education and awareness of the positive effects on the environment and the money saving possibilities to the business. This is suggested to not only be beneficial for business recycling rates but also will have a positive effect for domestic recycling rates.

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