Business: It’s about time to see rubbish as a resource

BUSINESSES that are persistent in taking a laissez-faire attitude to waste are effectively throwing money down the drain.

As a nation we Brits have lagged behind some of our more enlightened European neighbours in the recycling stakes for years – easy come, easy go.

In some quarters we were even known as the dirty man of Europe, not nice.

But according to Business Link, waste should be seen as a potential resource not as something to fill a hole in the ground. With some projections that the country could run out of rubbish space in a matter of years, the cost of the landfill tax can only rise.

By reducing waste – which is, after all, a result of not using materials efficiently – and engendering a culture of looking after resources – processes become more efficient. Resources, by the way, include such things as water and energy, as well as office photocopier paper, hotel soap sachets and even business cards.

Business Link’s experience in the UK suggests that firms across a range of industries can save 4-5 per cent of turnover by employing waste minimisation techniques.

Firms looking for quick wins can achieve immediate cost savings by printing or photocopying on both sides of paper or designing packaging, such as cardboard boxes, so they can be reused.

Government bodies like the Environment Agency also stress that firms have legal responsibilities as well as possible damage to their reputations if they don’t take action. Customers, employees and potential investors now include taking a look at how to green their firms.

Getting staff on board with recycling can be a great way of building team spirit and morale. Food waste can even be seen as a resource, with producers sending rubbish to be turned into animal feed on local farms or, through the creation of methane gas, the generation of power.

> The Green Business Network (GBN) is an independent, business-led, membership-based local environmental charity working with businesses, and related organisations in Bedfordshire, Luton, Milton Keynes and neighbouring areas.

The organisation is led by local business, supported by representatives from Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Councils, the Environment Agency and the Chamber.

GBN provides a range of services to help members improve their environmental performance.

> Luton Council doesn’t yet operate recycling services for businesses but says this may change as recycling targets become more demanding. The council says it will collect “almost anything” for services from £3.20.

Phone (01582) 510333, email [email protected] or visit

> Central Bedfordshire Council advises companies to seek quotes for waste services. The council can require businesses to provide details of their arrangements and says contractors must be licensed with the Environment Agency as a waste carrier.