Waste management in SMEs – a barrier to developing circular cities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Commercial and Industrial (C&I) waste stream is complex due to the diversity of material generated and variation in businesses by activity and size. Businesses in England generate more waste than households but despite this the C&I waste stream has historically been overlooked in waste policy. Many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) do not segregate dry recyclable materials and biowaste for separate collection leading to resources being wasted. Implementing smarter systems for managing waste from SMEs will be a key component of developing circular cities. In England the government has pledged to improve the management of waste from businesses – however it is uncertain what interventions, if any, it will make. This paper evaluates the mandatory requirement for businesses to separate out dry recyclable materials and biowaste in 42 global cities. The results highlight the patchwork of legislation towards C&I waste with 27 cities having no mandatory requirement for businesses to segregate material. Where the requirement was mandatory, the approach varied from being fully mandated to having exemptions based on the type and size of business, and levels of waste generated. From the legislation in these cities eight scenarios were modelled to assess what impact these interventions could have in England based on waste data collected from 62 SMEs. Mandatory separation of dry recyclable materials and biowaste for all SMEs based on the approach in San Francisco would have the biggest impact leading to 67.2% additional waste being separated – an average of 31.1 kg/week for the SMEs sampled.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-379
Number of pages11
JournalWaste Management
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sep 2020


  • commercial & industrial waste
  • Circular Economy
  • SMEs
  • waste policy
  • recycling
  • circular cities

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