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SMEs call for financial help to reduce plastics use

Small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) want to cut their use of plastic but lack sufficient financial incentives to help make the change.

The finding comes from research by Close Brothers Asset Finance, which works in business hire purchase, leasing and refinancing.

It found that 83% of SMEs felt plastic waste was a problem and 63% had initiatives in place to reduce plastic use. But 58% said they thought incentives for this were too weak.

According to Neil Davies, chief executive of Close Brothers, the survey of 900 businesses showed “with the environmental damage caused by plastic waste becoming increasingly clear, companies are taking it upon themselves to do something about it”.

“It looks as if momentum is building, with more than half of those polled having actively investigated alternatives to plastic.”

Only 52% of the smallest firms – those with a turnover below £250,000 – had acted to reduce plastics use, though this rose to 72% among those in the £5m-10m range.

The smallest businesses were also the least likely to feel incentivised to reduce reliance on plastics, with 69% of those with up to 10 employees seeing it as a problem.

Davies said: “Incentives are a proven way to mobilise both businesses and individuals to take action.

“A good example is solar PV, where various schemes have seen a significant uptake in generation while a substantial reduction in Government subsidy has not ended interest in solar investment.”

Construction was the sector most likely to feel satisfied with incentives and print/packaging the least.

Although 54% of companies overall had actively investigated alternatives to plastic, this ranged from 67% in the food/drink sector down to 42% in print/packaging.

Meanwhile, research by software firm ThoughtWorks has found that public concern is strong and growing about plastics pollution.

It said recycling, food waste, scarcity of supply and ethics would become major issues for consumers, with 62% seeking reduced packaging and to use more recyclable materials, while 48% said reducing food waste would be a top issue for the future.

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