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The real cost of business waste disposal in the UK

It might not be the first thing that springs to mind when considering your business overheads, but you might be surprised by how much it actually costs to get rid of waste responsibly.

According to the most recent government figures, almost a fifth of all the waste in England is generated by businesses, and disposing of it can carry a high price.

Companies end up counting not only the environmental but also the financial cost of the waste they generate. Landfill tax - paid by any business creating landfill waste - has risen to £98.60 per tonne, with the Government continually increasing the rate in an attempt to encourage businesses to recycle more of their refuse.

Business waste disposal

Businesses also pay “gate fees” to local authorities to dispose of waste, which are typically around £40 to £45 a tonne, but can be significantly higher depending on the types of waste concerned, according to WRAP, the government Waste Resources Action Programme.

Looking at insight from the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, as a result of increasing taxes and other price rises, business waste disposal costs can account for four to five per cent of the turnover of a company.

This is not to mention the commercial waste disposal costs, which include basic items such as bin hire and collection and waste transfer charges.

Overall, waste-disposal expert Veolia calculates that small businesses spend around £384 a year each on waste disposal, though once wasted energy and wasted labour are also included in the figure it will be far higher.

“We have now reached a stage where it is much more expensive to send waste to landfill than it is to recycle,” says Estelle Brachlianoff, chief executive of Veolia Environmental Services UK.

But cost-effective recycling is a particular problem for small businesses, which often cannot access residential recycling schemes run by councils and may not be big enough to gain attractive contracts for waste disposal from large commercial providers.

This issue is set to become even more acute in the years ahead as the measures laid out in the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy come into force, beginning in 2024. This places responsibility on businesses to pay the full costs of disposal for any packaging they place on the market.

Landfill tax

HM Revenue & Customs receipts for landfill tax in the UK suggest that the high cost of burying commercial waste is encouraging many businesses to recycle more. While receipts from the tax rose slightly between 2021 and 2022 to £0.67 billion, there has been a strong downward trend during the previous seven years which has seen the figure fall from a high of 1.18bn in 2013-14.

According to recycling group Envirotech, 60 per cent of all UK waste that ends up in the dustbin could have been recycled, so it is possible for businesses to recycle more of their waste, which could reduce their business costs further. Within my area of expertise, managing how much businesses print using our managed print services is helping our customers to reduce paper waste. As well as this, we can ensure that no waste goes to landfill, thanks to our market-leading recycling and remanufacturing programme.

Over the years, I have taken great pride in implementing sustainable printing solutions for our customers, and it’s something that we practice within our own business, as well as preach. At Brother, we’ve always had a strong commitment to the environment and sustainability, and we have achieved some major milestones - including Zero waste to landfill and being awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development in both 2011 and again in 2018.

Accounting for the real cost of waste disposal in the UK, it is clearly imperative for businesses to reduce, reuse and recycle as much of their waste as possible. So, when it comes to technology procurement, my advice is to consider full-lifecycle thinking – I've even written another article on it here.

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