New report highlights valuable resources locked up in business waste

Valuable resources which could boost Scotland’s economy are locked up in mixed ‘black bag’ waste produced by Scottish businesses, according to new report findings.

28 May 12

Published today by Zero Waste Scotland, the organisation also announces the re-launch of its Business Re-use and Recycling Directory, an online tool aiming to make it easier for businesses to find local recycling services and reuse organisations.

The report, The Composition of Mixed Waste from Scottish Retail, Education and Health and Social Work Businesses is the first detailed analysis of commercial waste in Scotland.

Examining mixed waste sent to landfill from three key sectors, retail, education, and health and social work, which are responsible for producing more than 50% of Scotland’s total mixed commercial waste, Zero Waste Scotland has found that over a quarter could be widely recycled and more than half was potentially recyclable1.

Food, paper, and card waste were the most common types of material in mixed waste bins across all sectors.  Other waste materials which are also suitable for recycling like glass, plastic, and cans also appeared, though in lower quantities.

The research also highlights that although three-quarters of businesses report that they recycle or reuse at least some of their business waste, there are opportunities to do more to encourage people to use recycling facilities as well as opportunities to introduce new recycling collections.  The study also identifies how businesses can save money by reducing the amount they throw away in the first place.  

Other key findings from the research include:

  • The Scottish motor, wholesale and retail sector throws nearly £30million of whole or unused food straight in their general waste bin.  
  • Scottish educational establishments of all kinds send over 120 tonnes of unused paper to landfill each year, worth around £460,000.  
  • The Scottish health and social care sector send more than 30,000 tonnes of paper waste to landfill.  Including newspapers, magazines, and unused A4-type paper, over 80% of this is potentially recyclable.
  • Disposing of over 372,000 tonnes of mixed waste has cost businesses across all three sectors more than £20million in landfill tax last year (2011/12), a cost which could be reduced by minimising waste and recycling more.  

New Waste (Scotland) Regulations passed by the Scottish Parliament in May are designed to prevent valuable waste materials from ending up in landfill.  The regulations will require all businesses in Scotland to separate paper and card, plastic, metal, and glass for recycling by 2014.  Businesses that produce more than 50kg of food waste per week will also need to separate this for collection by January 2014, and businesses producing between 5kg and 50kg of food waste per week will be asked to follow suit from 2016. 

Iain Gulland, Director of Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“While many businesses already recycle much of their waste, there are still valuable materials ending up in landfill.

“Given these findings, it is clear that new waste regulations could boost our economy by getting valuable materials out of landfill and into productive uses.

“Also, reducing waste in the first place is a quick, easy win for businesses.  Simple actions like avoiding food waste could save businesses in our motor, wholesale and retail sector £30million per annum, that’s an average of £800 for every business.  

“Zero Waste Scotland can help businesses identify ways to save money by reducing waste.  Our Business Re-use and Recycling Directory, which has recently been updated and improved, is also a great online resource to help businesses identify services in their local area.

“Helping businesses, local authorities, and the waste management sector adapt to changes required to meet new regulations is a priority for us.”  

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