Keywords: environmental education, environmental management, waste management, stakeholders, small business, sustainable development, waste recycling, sustainability, environmental impact, waste disposal
Waste recycling: local methods for successful interaction with small business
Environmental management practices are common in large companies, but rare in small businesses even though, collectively, their environmental footprint is substantially greater. There is, therefore, a crucial need to engage small businesses in practices that reduce their environmental impact and assist sustainability. However, the management of environmental issues in small business is the domain of the owner-manager who is often resource poor, both financially and in the amount of time available to implement new sustainable practices. A survey of 139 small businesses in a light industrial area has provided an indication of the environmental footprint of small business by showing the volume of waste generated compared to the amount recycled. An intervention programme to increase recycling in this area and reduce the negative impact of these businesses has produced positive results. These results demonstrate that engaging small business in environmental management can be a catalyst both for reducing the environmental impact of small businesses, and for the implementation of local initiatives. Of critical importance in the success of the intervention was direct consultation from the outset with small business owner-managers. This consultation meant that when a barrier to recycling was identified with a particular waste item the owner-manager was provided the opportunity to agree on a solution and cooperate in the efforts to implement beneficial changes. As a consequence of the research and intervention, an increased awareness of waste disposal, recycling issues and opportunities has been created, with improved communication and cooperation between small businesses, recycling contractors and local environmental organisations. The results achieved in this pilot project could be used to direct policy to encourage and support others in this important business sector to implement effective environmental practices.