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Watch your waste line

06 January 2015

Recycling and reuse initiatives are never far from the headlines, but lately some have been particularly eye-catching.

"UK's first 'poo bus' goes into service between Bristol and Bath" said one attention-grabbing headline about the UK's first bus powered entirely by human and food waste.
"Homes to be built from recycled waste to help Britain reduce its huge rubbish mountain" said another story before explaining how architects and builders are starting to look at building homes from recycled plastic bottles and glue.

They may sound like science fiction but these initiatives are very much grounded in reality as the UK tries to find ways to reduce the amount of waste it sends to landfill. Presently it stands at about 50% (around 200 million tonnes) while countries such as Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands send nothing at all.

New laws are trying to improve this figure. It is now the legal duty for every business in Scotland to recycle as much as they can reasonably manage and, from October 2015, England will follow in the footsteps of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by charging 5p for single-use plastic carrier bags in supermarkets and larger stores to discourage their use. 

Various initiatives aimed at reducing waste have been shaping consumer behaviour for some time, whether it's the opportunity to recycle old christmas cards at local department stores or to opt in for paperless bank statements and bills. And if we as consumers are doing our bit, we certainly expect the businesses we buy from to do even more.

The reduction, reuse and recycling of waste is part of a wider trend for businesses to become more sustainable, and pressure to do so will only increase. Businesses that embrace it sooner rather than later will not only boost their reputation but also their balance sheets by attracting new customers, saving money on landfill costs and generating revenue from selling waste such as used cooking oil for fuel.

As an area of constant innovation, it's not hard to find inspiration on how your business can manage its waste more efficiently. In this issue, for example, Cleaning Matters talks to the man behind the UK's first zero-waste eatery. But you don't have to buy into the latest technologies to make a difference. Installing bins that separate general and recyclable waste on your premises, for instance, is a simple but effective place to start.

So if adopting a greener approach to waste isn't currently one of your New Year's resolutions, you might want to reconsider – it's likely to be the one that is the easiest to keep and that gives you the best results.