Businesses in Great Britain produce some 80m tonnes of waste each year of which about 5m tonnes are hazardous. Even office workers produce significant amounts of waste. Although about a third of business waste is recycled, about half still goes to landfill.
This not only risks damage to our environment, but also represents a massive waste of natural resources which will sooner or later hold back economic growth and lower everyone’s quality of life.
This is why companies are increasingly being asked to bear the environmental costs of their waste management and why the landfill tax, for example, is currently rising at £1 per tonne per year.
But, quite apart from increased taxes, companies often underestimate how much their waste costs them. They may not take into account the purchase cost of discarded raw materials, the value of any reject product, the cost of discarded packaging and the energy and other resources used to process materials that will be thrown away.
So reducing waste is better for the business bottom line too.
And forward-looking businesses can gain powerful competitive advantages by looking at their impact on the environment and taking steps to identify and manage the risks that this impact can bring. They can develop new and more sustainable processes, new products and even completely new ways of doing business, which will support their business growth in the future.
The Waste Reporting Guidelines
The purpose of these Guidelines is to help businesses to
- measure all the waste they produce which basically means all controlled waste (for definitions see Useful Information) and special or hazardous waste from industry (including solvents, oils, sludges and other liquid wastes) and waste from commercial premises, such as offices and retail outlets, which may be collected as municipal waste. The Guidelines do not, however, deal with emissions to air (some of which are covered in the guidelines for company reporting on greenhouse gas emissions – see Useful Information) or discharges to water (which will be covered in future guidelines on water use).
- identify how their waste management could be improved. A useful rule of thumb is the waste hierarchy (see Step 4) which ranks options for dealing with waste in descending order of their sustainability so the eliminating/reducing waste or changing to a waste disposal solution higher in the hierarchy should both improve the environmental outcome and save money in the longer term
- set targets to reduce their waste or where this is not practicable to re-use, recycle, or recover their waste to the benefit of the company and the environment
- achieve savings and improve their performance, their management of environment risks and their competitiveness
- report on their performance to demonstrate to shareholders, consumers and other stakeholders that theirs is a well-run, environmentally responsible business, and to build commitment within the business
- meet current and future legislative requirements, for example, the requirements under the Duty of Care which apply to all commercial or industrial waste producers, or the European Packaging Directives requirements to recover 52% of packaging waste by 2001. Future legislation (for example on Producer Responsibility, Integrated Product Policy, the landfill Directive and the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations) will make it ever more important for businesses to develop strategies for managing and reducing all kinds of waste.