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Understanding is key to managing and reducing waste produced by businesses, say waste management firms

With the latest changes to food waste regulations taking effect from January 1 this year, it’s now vital that operators in the licensed trade understand the best ways to manage their commercial waste.

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The primary regulations affecting bars, restaurants and hotels – the Waste (Scotland) Regulations – require businesses to segregate paper, card, plastic, metal, glass and food from their general waste.
Since the regulations took effect on January 1, 2014, businesses (except those in rural areas) which produce over 50kg of food waste a week have been required to present that food waste for separate collection.
But changes introduced this January now mean that the threshold has been reduced to 5kg requiring segregation and a separate collection.
Waste management firm William Tracey Group’s managing director for non-hazardous waste, Robin Stevenson, said that understanding the waste that requires to be managed is the “starting point”.
“Often businesses are not really aware of the types and volumes of waste they are producing,” said Stevenson.
“The right contractor will be able to give you this information or help you to work this out. You can then work with suppliers, change processes on site and improve the waste collection system to reduce and better manage your waste.”
Stevenson added that specialist waste management firms will ensure compliance with legislation and help operators identify ways to reduce costs and maximise environmental benefits through increased recycling.
Factors these firms consider include which materials to mix or separate, the most suitable container sizes and type for a specific business, and the frequency and time of collection.
Effective staff training and awareness is another way to reduce waste costs, according to Barry Crews, regional general manager at waste management firm Biffa.
He said: “Operators can implement a range of internal measures within their business, such as displaying the correct signage which directs staff to where they should dispose of waste, and this should go hand in hand with the right level of training for the staff who will be handling waste.
“Ensuring that all staff within the business have an understanding of how to dispose of waste correctly and what happens to that waste once it leaves the building may positively influence and reduce overall waste levels.”
Crews went on to say that, while training staff and the measures needed to put efficient handling of waste will require investment from companies, it is worth it as it can prevent potentially recyclable waste being sent to landfill, which incurs the costly Landfill Tax.
Staff training was also advocated by Ian Hewson, commercial development manager at Business Stream, who said staff should be encouraged to “think before they throw”.
“It’s important that employees understand just how much waste the business is producing, the types of food waste that are being produced and also where in the organisation it is generated,” said Hewson.
“Having this information will enable employees to make better informed decisions on the best way to dispose of waste and can have a positive effect on the amount of waste generated in the first instance.”
In addition to saving money from reducing landfill costs, effective waste management can also be a source of pride for many businesses, said Crews, at Biffa.
Food waste is now being used to generate green energy, and so businesses that are efficient with their waste are actively helping to cut carbon emissions.
Crews said: “Biffa’s recent survey of food waste producers found that once they were aware that food waste that isn’t fit for human consumption could be turned into renewable energy, they were more likely to dispose of it correctly by segregating it.”