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SMEs unsure over duty of care

fly tipped rubbish

The new ‘Right Waste, Right Place’ campaign has published research indicating that, while most businesses claim to be complying with duty of care obligations, nearly half (48%) do not know what happens to their waste when it leaves their site.

A survey focusing on 1,000 SMEs in the agriculture, construction and retail sectors also found that:

  • More than a third were unsure whether they completed Waste Transfer Notes (WTN)
  • Only half of construction businesses stored WTNs for the required two years
  • A quarter of construction businesses did not always separate their waste
  • More than a third of agricultural companies were not aware of the penalties
  • Only 4% of retailers knew that they risk prosecution by breaking the rules

The campaign has an interactive website run by the Environmental Services Association (ESA), and the campaign is supported by the Environment Agency and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM).

Environmental and health considerations were said to be the main drivers for businesses to comply, followed closely by legal requirements. A total of 89% also said they took steps to securely store their waste, while 83% were making some effort to separate different materials before disposing or recycling.

There were 962,513 incidents of fly-tipping recorded across the country in 2014-15, costing local authorities £69m in investigations and clearance.

Sam Corp, head of regulation at the ESA, said: “These results back up what we suspected – that small businesses really want to do the right thing but many are ultimately not complying with the law.

”Waste crime is not victimless. Dealing with the results is costing taxpayers millions of pounds each year, and waste criminals can harm the environment and put local communities in danger. By not complying, local businesses could well be helping to facilitate such crime by not ensuring waste is disposed of safely.”

Steve Lee, CIWM chief executive, said he was pleased that businesses were motivated to do the right thing and had practices in place to split different types of waste such as electronic, hazardous, plastic and metal waste.

”Owners of SME businesses are expected to be an expert in everything – and waste law is no exception. Our campaign provides a helping hand to all those diligent company owners or sole traders who do not want to leave themselves open to risk.

”Crucially, the campaign does this in a simple and accessible way, and we hope businesses find our resources useful when they’re making everyday decisions about their waste.”

The campaign will be publishing a booklet at RWM on 13 September to provide an overview of the research.

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