Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Roughly this time last year, our business blog started to talk about the concept of zero waste, and highlighted the opportunities that moving to a zero waste society can create for businesses across Scotland. As we reach the final stage of the transition period I want to follow on from where that blog left off and talk about the exciting opportunities that the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan creates for businesses.

The Zero Waste Plan highlights how we all have an important part to play in creating a zero waste society. It outlines how there is a need to maximise resource efficiency by reusing and recycling more things more often and it shows the environmental and economic advantages that can be created by promoting a Greener Scotland. Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs for future generations, and the Zero Waste Plan outlines how a win win scenario can be created for businesses that look to reduce their costs by becoming more resource efficient.

Recent research shows that if Scottish businesses put some simple waste reduction measures in place, then there is the potential for them to save about 1% of their annual turnover.  That would equate to over £2 billion if all of Scotland’s businesses took the same approach. Iain Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Businesses must overcome the perception that going green adds cost – the opposite is true. Those companies that have addressed their environmental performance with even small changes have measured savings in their bottom line.

Zero Waste Scotland is the delivery body that has been put in place to help deliver the Zero Waste Plan and help promote waste reduction behaviour across Scotland. This provides a wide range of advice for a variety of different groups including communities, individuals and businesses. There is a vast quantity of advice and assistance available to those businesses that are looking to take initial steps in promoting resource efficiency, as well as for those who are progressing nicely along their journey towards a more sustainable business.

The new Zero Waste Scotland website is full of information for both large and small businesses looking to reduce their waste and use resources more efficiently. Don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself.


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The festive period can often be a time for overindulgence, and I am sure anyone who ventures anywhere near their local shops on the weekend before Christmas would agree with me. Overindulging every now and then is something that I think everyone will admit to doing, especially over Christmas when you might well have a large meal of roast turkey and all the trimmings. This is always a particularly enjoyable meal; however, if you think about the long term impacts of eating so much food in such a short space of time, you might actually stop and consider the benefits of reducing your consumption for that one meal. When you reduce your consumption, you can often end up having food left over that can then feed you for the next few days in the form of sandwiches or curry. Our Love Food Hate Waste campaign is able to provide you with some further ideas about what to do with any left over turkey, but the idea of using this food over a longer period of time shows a good example of increasing resource efficiency.

Promoting resource efficiency is something that is applicable to your business model as well as how you might choose to live your life because it can lead to cost savings. Resource efficiency is all about managing raw materials, energy and water in order to minimise waste and thereby reduce cost. Another reason why you would want to increase the resource efficiency of your business is because it can help increase the overall sustainability of your business. Not only does minimising waste output have significant environmental benefits, but there are also clear economic incentives as the costs associated with waste disposal will be minimised. Research has shown that there is the potential to save up to 4.5% of your annual turnover by reducing costs associated with landfill tax. Reducing the quantity of waste that your business generates can lead to increased business efficiencies as you gain a greater understanding of your business processes and this can give you a competitive advantage over your competitors.

There are clearly a number of advantages associated with improving resource efficiencies in business and I will now go on to explain how you can implement changes that will lead to improved resource efficiencies. The first thing that your organisation should do, is to undertake a waste review to see exactly where waste is being created in the first place, and therefore what actions can be taken to reduce this. These reviews can either be done internally, or you can call on organisations such as Zero Waste Scotland who are able to offer businesses of all sizes free advice. When making changes to your business it is important not only to involve your staff, and work with them, but also to consider your entire supply chain. This includes working with your suppliers and your customers so as to examine the true costs associated with waste, and also to help promote change amongst others. It is important to set realistic targets. Remember to start small and grow from there, it is worth remembering that there are numerous simple measures that you can implement before trying a large change. Many small successes are greater than one large project that perhaps does not work as well.

Over the festive period, there are a number of steps that businesses can take to improve their resource efficiencies. These can be simple steps such as anticipating that there might not be as many people in your workplace and therefore remember to get fewer supplies, particularly if the items have a short shelf life or these can be larger steps such as choosing to send out e-cards instead of cards. By examining what resources come into your workplace, it is possible to reduce what comes in and therefore create a more efficient, sustainable workplace and a more profitable new year.

I hope you have a very resourceful, Christmas and an efficient New Year.

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Isn't it time for a new briefcase?

Isn't it time for a new briefcase?

A news story on http://www.edie.net has neatly summarised the views of many environmental bodies to yesterday’s budget. It makes for interesting reading and shows that there are mixed feelings to the measures put forward by the Chancellor. Some people are happy, other less so. Isn’t it always thus? WAB are staying out of the arguments but it wouldn’t be right to ignore the event completely.

Page one of comments, plus the original story, is here.

Page two is here.


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A few headlines last week (well this one and this one) suggested that the recent recycling “crisis“, which was apparently going to bring an end to the recycling industry in Britain and lead to waste mountains the size of Nicaragua, is largely over. This is because the price of many recyclates (aka materials for recycling) has bounced back from a slight fall over the period from late 2008 – early 2009.

This follows hot on the heels of Liz Goodwin’s message in The Guardian urging consumers in the UK  to “not stop recycling” and highlighting the fact that negative press surrounding the issue could fuel the fires and actually make the situation worse. After all there are a more than a few people out there who need very little excuse to turn around and say “I’m not spending four minutes of my tightly-scheduled day segregating waste! What the hell are holes in the ground for anyway?!”

What the bounce-back shows is that, although the price of materials for recycling will fluctuate, in the long term there is likely to be a value to the materials we reclaim from members of the public, schools, hospitals, churches and businesses. Perhaps this is because, on the whole, it makes good financial sense for the businesses that make the products we use to buy recycled raw materials rather than pay for virgin material. In many cases the price of recycled material is in fact cheaper than the price of non-recycled due to the sheer effort it takes to find new virgin material and process it for use in manufacturing.

This is good news for smaller businesses who have been most affected by a downward shift in the value of recyclates. This is partly because recycling companies charge on the basis of the value they can recoup by selling the materials for further processing and, where this value falls, they may have to increase the cost of collections to offset the change in price they receive. Larger businesses often have sufficient waste to generate an income from it (someone will pay to collect it) so they simply see a slight drop in the price they get (which is vastly preferential to paying for it to go to landfill and still a definite bonus on the balance sheet). Smaller businesses, on the other hand, almost always have to pay for someone to collect their waste because there is insufficient volume for it to be worth enough for someone to pay to collect it. So price rises mean greater waste expenditure and an increased likelihood that a business will revert to the kerbside waste collection to avoid the cost of a recycling collection.

If you are a small business and want to find a recycling company which will collect small amounts of materials on a regular basis (perhaps in order to compare this with the cost of your general waste collection – which, lest we forget, goes to landfill) then visit the main WAB website today.

If you have any difficulties using the directory or cannot find an outlet for your waste, then contact us: info@wasteawarebusiness.org.uk.

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Apologies for the slightly inflammatory post title. Of course they do. What I really mean is “do small businesses feel that they matter?” In other words do they believe their voice is being heard amongst the big boys and do they feel supported in their efforts to maintain and grow their business?

A Very Small Business

A Very Small Business

On a big-picture level, small businesses (those up to 50 employees) matter hugely to the Scottish and UK economy. In fact they account for over 99% (!) of all businesses and over 60% of the workforce in Scotland. Just imagine what condition the country would be in without them! Basically you won’t find many people who disagree that small businesses are vital to the future of Scotland.

However it is much more difficult for the Government and its agencies to communicate with smaller businesses than larger businesses and this can create an impression that smaller businesses are being overlooked. This is  due to a number of factors. For example, the marketing power of bigger companies can squeeze out the “good news” stories from smaller businesses who are working hard to make a difference. I’m sure we all know how many plastic bags M&S have saved over the last year (80%, a fantastic achievement) but do we know about the number of small shops that have achieved the same percentage or banned them altogether?

Another difficulty is that larger companies have communications departments who keep an eye out for the latest Government initiative and therefore know exactly what Government wants to hear. They also have marketing budgets to make quick changes to the messages they want to put out. It also tends to be easier to achieve quick wins with big companies as the agencies helping them can quote impressive headline figures for tonnage of waste diverted from landfill. That’s not to take anything away from this work, after all big business is important to the perception of the country as a place to work and live in so they deserve to receive their fair share of support. However it’s well worth remembering that the combined waste output of small business is likely to equal that of big business (with the notable exception of the construction industry).

I believe the single biggest difficulty is the fact that there are simply so many small businesses out there, covering a whole range of different business activities.

In an environmental context, many small businesses must wonder how they are supposed to contribute to the environmental aims and ambitions of the country when the cost of choosing the more environmentally friendly option is often higher than the cost of choosing the non-sustainable option. For example, large companies can actually charge companies to collect their paper waste for recycling (at around £50 a tonne at current prices) small companies have to pay for it to be collected, often at a higher rate than if they send it to landfill via their local authority.

I have first hand experience of this problem. I ran a small business (an organic food shop in Edinburgh), from 2006-2008, and I made the choice to recycle the cardboard (mainly the secondary packaging around the produce I sold). It cost me around £8 a week to have it collected separately from my non-recyclable waste. Had I just folded it up and shoved it into the Trade Waste sacks provided by Edinburgh Council (at a cost of £1.50 each at the time) I could have fitted it into one or two sacks, therefore saving between £5 and £6.50 a week. Not exactly a big dent in profits. However, whilst cardboard only cost me an extra fiver or so, when added to the paper, cans, glass and other packaging it soon became very expensive to be as environmentally friendly as I wanted my business to be. On top of that I also made the decision to have other eco-extras such as eco-lightbulbs, compostable shopping bags, renewable energy and to use natural paints in-store.

I did this not, as you might think, because of some crazy experiment to see how quickly I could go bust (and, at two years, it was pretty quick) but because I believed the additional costs were unlikely to be the difference between success and failure (they weren’t) and, as someone who tries to be a committed environmentalist, I just couldn’t face choosing the obviously unsustainable option.

So, if being 100% environmentally friendly costs small businesses money and takes more effort and time, why on earth would any small business choose what’s better for the planet over what’s better for their profit margins? And how do we, as a campaigning organisation, try to make the case for change?

Well it’s not easy but, crucially, there are many steps small businesses can take which do save money and which don’t use up resources, effort or time.

What we need to do is make this advice easy to find, easy to follow and easy to implement. That’s the challenge, and although we currently offer some useful generic advice on Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, we want develop this further to really make sure all small businesses can quickly find ideas on waste reduction whether by hosting our own content or linking more effectively to advice that’s already out there. Ideas on the kind of information you want are, as always, very welcome.

To get you thinking, here’s an example of the kind of impact small businesses could make overnight:

If every individual working in the financial or estate agency sector in Scotland reduced the amount of paper they print by an average of just 4 pieces of A4 paper a day the total saving would be over 450 million pieces of paper every year. This is equivalent to over 500 acres of land being forested for paper or over 2250 tonnes in weight.*


·          469,000 employees in Financial sector or Estate Agency  – (BERR Enterprise Directorate Analytical Unit.)

·          4 pieces a day, 5 days a week, 48 weeks per year = 450 million.

·          An acre of forested land yields around 900,000 pieces of paper.

·          80gsm paper weighs roughly 5 grams per sheet.

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