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The amount of waste produced by businesses is significantly higher than that generated from households – an estimated 48 million tonnes of business, or commercial and industrial, waste was produced in 2009, twice the amount of household waste collected by councils in 2008/09.
Recycling rates for commercial and industrial waste have traditionally been higher than for household waste, with 52% of material being recycled in 2009, with the way businesses generate waste – for example by removing packaging from deliveries – making it easier to recover value from material by recycling it.
Businesses’ key legal responsibility for dealing with waste is their duty of care. This requires them to ensure that they produce, store, transport and dispose of their business waste without harming the environment. The duty of care applies to all controlled waste, which includes both household and commercial & industrial, or C&I waste.
Waste and recycling management services for businesses are offered by both waste management companies and local authorities. An increasing number of councils are providing business, or trade, waste collection services. In 2010, 65% of councils offered a service for residual waste and 43% offered a recycling service.
Several pieces of government and European legislation also place further responsibilities on businesses.
These include producer responsibility legislation such as the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, the Packaging Waste Directive, the Batteries Directive and the End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive.
However, the main push for them to divert material from landfill comes from landfill tax, a levy which must be paid on every tonne of waste sent to landfill. The tax currently (April 2012) stands at £64 a tonne for ‘active’ waste and £2.50 a tonne for ‘inactive’ waste. It will increase in April 2013 to £72 per tonne.
The increasing influence of corporate social responsibility (CSR) for businesses' is also helping to improve their waste and recycling performance, as proving environmental credentials becomes a significant way of attracting both customers and investors.
Despite the influence of landfill tax, government policy on waste and recycling has traditionally been seen to have ignored the waste stream, despite the fact that significantly more waste is generated by businesses than households.
However, as part of its review of England’s waste policy which was launched in July 2010, the coalition government outlined action on linking business and household waste management more closely as a particular area of focus to help tackle the C&I waste stream.
It also mooted further voluntary responsibility deals on waste, following the success of the grocery sector’s Courtauld Commitment and the construction sector’s Halving Waste to Landfill commitment. However, as of December 2012, no firm details on the future of the Courtauld Agreement had been given.