Waste Management In SMEs: A Barrier To The Circular Economy

Ryan Woodard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are defined by the European Commission as businesses with less than 250 employees or have a turnover of less than €50 million. SMEs represent more than 90% of global businesses and account, on average, for about 50% of Gross Domestic Product of all countries and for 63% of their employment. In the UK at the start of 2012 SMEs accounted for 99.9% of all private sector businesses, 59.1% of private sector employment and 48.8% of private sector turnover. Based upon the latest government data 64.4% of the total commercial and industrial waste generated in England originates from SMEs - an estimated 30.7 million tonnes which far exceeds waste generated from households. Whilst England has a well-established system for managing household waste the infrastructure and management for managing waste from SMEs varies significantly across the country. Under current legislation businesses have a Duty of Care to ensure that waste generated as part of their business or within their workplace is handled safely and within the law. It is down to individual businesses to pay a public or private contractor to collect their waste and recycling - in the UK it is illegal for SMEs to use household facilities. Some local authorities offer a service that businesses can pay to use: at present 68% of collection or unitary authorities in England provide a commercial residual waste collection service and 49% provide a commercial recycling collection. In the absence of the local authority providing a service SMEs are reliant on private sector provision. This paper presents the results from a series of projects looking at how SMEs currently manage their waste. This includes the results from detailed interviews with 100 SMEs to understand how they manage waste and barriers to increased recycling. Data is presented from waste composition analysis evaluating the levels of recyclable material and biowaste SMEs generate. The paper also presents information on how SMEs are currently complying with environmental policy including the Duty of Care regulations. The results show that the current system for managing waste from SMEs is inadequate. As a result significant quantities of dry recyclables and biowaste are being sent to landfill or for energy recovery. A wide range of contractors are currently used which leads to problems with storage of waste on public highways and increased vehicle movements. Many businesses currently illegally use household services to dispose of their waste. The paper proposes some potential solutions to improve the management of waste from SMEs and considers how the current system is a barrier to the move towards a circular economy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationISWA 2015 World Congress Antwerp
Place of PublicationBrussels, Belgium
PublisherVereniging van Vlaamse Steden en Gemeenten vzw
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9789075367003
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2015
EventISWA 2015 World Congress Antwerp - Antwerp, Belgium 7-9th September 2015
Duration: 7 Sept 2015 → …


ConferenceISWA 2015 World Congress Antwerp
Period7/09/15 → …


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