Most of London’s small businesses still confused about sorting rubbish

A new survey has revealed there is a concerning lack of knowledge amongst Britain’s small business when it comes to disposing of hazardous waste.

The study of more than 1,000 SMEs, conducted by waste and recycling company Biffa, found eight out of ten are leaving themselves open to fines and prosecutions, with only 20 per cent of companies disposing of their hazardous waste legally.

Despite an overriding confidence in how to manage their business waste (95 per cent said it wasn’t confusing), and the Environmental Agency’s efforts to educate offenders before resorting to fines or prosecutions in extreme cases, the vast majority of companies are still not complying with the Hazardous Waste Regulations.

In fact almost a third (32 per cent) of respondents said they were not confident their employees knew how to identify and dispose of hazardous waste correctly, with materials such as metal (14 per cent), empty tins/cans (16 per cent) and wood ( five per cent) among the least identified forms of every day hazardous waste.

Hazardous wastes include commonplace items such as aerosols, light bulbs, batteries and oily rags. Since 2005, the law dictates that these materials, which could cause specific harm to the environment or human health, should be collected separately for treatment and disposal.

“The problem arises because many small businesses are only generating tiny amounts of hazardous wastes, so they don’t think putting it in the normal rubbish bin is a problem,” explains Biffa’s CEO Ian Wakelin, “but if your company throws out an old computer, polish cans or even a tin of leftover paint, by law they need to be treated properly.”

The Hazardous Waste Regulations came into force almost ten years ago and yet many businesses are still unaware of the legal requirements of storage, transportation, treatment and disposal.

Biffa is now encouraging businesses to arrange a suitable collection service. The Regulations say that businesses need to have their hazardous waste collected at least once a year, so it doesn’t need to be expensive or difficult to comply.

The company’s HazDirect service is the first dedicated, national service of its kind, enabling customers to dispose of low (but nonetheless important) levels of hazardous waste. HazDirect customers get a Waste-Safe Mini to store up to 25kg of hazardous waste which can be collected on a daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly basis. The HazDirect checklist helps to ensure that the regulations are being met and businesses can be rest assured that their waste is being treated in an environmentally-friendly and legally responsible way.

The survey found that while a lot of businesses are now recycling their waste, the majority are still disposing of materials that could still be recycled. By having hazardous wastes collected for the correct treatment, businesses can further increase their recycling rates, improving their environmental performance and ‘green’ credentials.

Failure to comply with regulations can not only result in fines and prosecutions but also have a harmful effect on the environment, wildlife and human health.

Common hazardous wastes produced by Britain’s SMEs include:

• Aerosols
• Alkaline batteries
• Flammable adhesives
• Adhesives e.g. super glue
• Bulbs and UV lamps
• Paint (solvent-based and water-based)
• Empty oil containers
• Oily rags and granules
• Rags contaminated with solvent
• Waste electrical and electronic equipment (Printed Circuit Boards, kettles, toasters, TVs)
• Oil filters
• Mineral oil

You can look at the different forms of hazardous waste and find out why these waste materials should be handled separately and correctly from other forms of waste in this short film:

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