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One in Two Small Businesses Fall Short on Basic Recycling

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Recycling sits on the back burner for many UK small businesses, who claim they do not have access to the most basic of recycling facilities.

At a time of global climate crisis, when nations are looking to governments for comprehensive plans to secure a green future – in adherence to advice from the IPCC*  (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) – new research reveals that half of the UK small business community are sleepwalking into landfill by not yet recycling plastic bottles and tins cans. Further, two in five enterprises (39%) are not recycling paper and, worryingly, only a third use confidential waste to process sensitive documents.

The research from Novuna Business Finance reveals that good housekeeping on sustainability matters is not being implemented by small businesses, as one in two fall short on basic recycling. The representative survey of 1,027 small business leaders revealed that only 50% of respondents claimed to have mixed recycling facilities in the workplace – and 7% of small businesses don’t recycling anything at all.

Basic recycling measures in place by UK small businesses

  • Paper recycling 61%
  • Mixed plastic bottles/ tin 50%
  • Confidential waste 37%
  • Bottle banks 37%
  • Food waste bins 26%
  • Garden waste 24%

Recycling facilities come at an additional cost, and when asked what holds the business back from sustainable development – 24% of small business owners admitted to not having the budget and 21% said they were pre-occupied by the more pressing task of keeping the business afloat.

At a time of price hikes to the cost of living and supply chain, with inflation up to 7% and fuel prices continuing to soar – 80% of small business owners said that the Government should be stepping in and doing more to help small businesses with guidance on how to cut carbon emissions in the community.

Hospitality businesses in particular use a lot of carboard, plastic bottles, containers and glass – yet the research data suggests that many enterprises are still a long way off hitting the mark on recycling. Only 46% of these businesses recycle bottles and glass, and 61% said they recycled paper and cardboard.

An issue for some hospitality businesses may be a practical one, with there being nowhere to put their recycling bins.  For example, pubs and restaurants line busy streets, often with little or no private floor space for bins – and councils often prevent curb-side storage. Brighton and Hove City Council, for example, as part of its T-Zone initiative, threatens £110 fines to any business whose bins remain on public land outside of collection hours.

Joanna Morris, Head of Insight at Novuna Business Finance comments:

“The scale of the task at hand is going to require an immense amount of work from everyone, not just big businesses, and this starts with getting the basic things right first. Shocking as these findings are, the positive news is that small and relatively easy changes from small businesses, could result in really impactful and positive change.

“We have seen from other research we have done that small business owners really do want to contribute towards a sustainable future, but this research indicates that, for too long, smaller businesses have not been part of the climate conversation. There are so many small businesses in the UK, employing so many people, it is high time we started to see them as key change agents on the climate crisis. It starts with the small steps on recycling and avoiding landfill, and grows into a bigger picture relating to renewable energy and managing an ethical supply chain. This research indicates what still needs to be done, but at Novuna Business Finance we are committed to helping small businesses develop a plan for carbon neutrality and sustainability that is good for the broader community and makes sense for the bottom line.”