Small businesses need less regulation and more help to minimise waste and increase recycling rates, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
David Caro, FSB’s environment chair, also accused some waste management firms of “taking advantage” of SMEs.
Caro was speaking alongside Defra minister Lord Taylor at a briefing on SMEs and recycling organised by the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group.
Lord Taylor said 99% of UK businesses are SMEs and they produce 64% of commercial and industrial waste. He said Defra calculated that £22.6bn could be saved by SMEs through greater resource efficiency.
Caro said FSB research shows 95% of small businesses would recycle more if they had better access to services and facilities. He said regulation of waste definitions and transfers should be relaxed.
“Many small businesses understand the business they are in but need help with anything outside that area,” Caro said. “There are barriers, but they are barriers that can be solved.”
One of the problems, according to Caro, is the diversity of SMEs and the waste they produce. He said local authorities should be able to collect from businesses like shops where the waste produced is similar to household waste.
He called for waste transfer licence regulations to be relaxed for SMEs because, he said, they stop small traders moving waste to council amenity sites and thereby encourage fly-tipping.
He said legal definitions of waste are too rigid: “Waste is a resource waiting to be taken advantage of and, because of rigid definitions of waste, you can’t turn it into a resource, you can’t get it easily redefined.”
Caro called for more transparency in waste service contracts. He said some “very bad” waste management companies, “including one or two very well known companies, take advantage of the fact that some local authorities do not offer waste collection services [to SMEs] and so they feel they can price whatever they like.”
Lord Taylor said the problem is not regulation but how regulation is sometimes enforced with a “lack of proportionality”.