Most small businesses are unaware of requirements for the management of hazardous waste, a Biffa study has suggested.
The company surveyed 1,009 people working in companies with fewer than 250 employees.
Most of them correctly identified batteries as hazardous waste, but failed to do so for electrical wiring, paint, old machinery and computer monitors.
“This suggests that a large number of businesses are disposing of hazardous wastes with their normal waste streams, and potentially causing harm to the environment and/or human health,” the report said.
While over 75% of the respondents separated dry recyclable and 40% food waste, only 20% did so for hazardous waste, the survey found. The Hazardous Waste Regulations require a separate storage container for waste materials such as batteries, aerosols and oily rags.
Some 45% said they were not aware of the fines and penalties that they could incur for disposing of waste incorrectly.
“The problem arises because many small businesses are only generating tiny amounts of hazardous wastes, so they don’t think putting it in the normal rubbish bin is a problem,” said Biffa’ chief executive Ian Wakelin.
“When an item of hazardous waste is incorrectly thrown into the recycling, it can result in the whole container having to go to landfill,” he added. “It’s a shame to have to do that when people have tried hard to recycle the right items. The best thing to do is to get informed.”