Scottish SMEs cautious about zero waste plan

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Scotland have welcomed the Scottish Government's zero waste strategy but remain concerned about potential compliance costs, according to a survey conducted by the Forum of Private Business (FPB).

Submitting evidence to the Scottish Rural Affairs Climate Change and Environment Committee inquiry into the zero waste proposal, the FPB found that many SMEs were uncertain about Government claims that the initiative could help cut business costs and increase profits.

Although 47 per cent of business owners surveyed on the FPB's Scottish panel believe the scheme will have a 'minimal' impact when implemented - with 18 per cent believing it will have a 'positive' impact - it revealed that that nearly a quarter (24 per cent) feared that net costs may be bigger than Government estimations.

Other issues of concern were timing issues (18 per cent) including sorting waste, the impact of additional red tape (13 per cent) and infrastructure problems (13 per cent). Storage of waste was also an issue.

The Scottish Government launched its zero waste plan on 9 June 2010 - aiming to recycle 70 per cent of all waste and send a maximum of 5 per cent to landfill by 2025 - with hopes it will benefit businesses and the public alike.

According to the survey, some Scottish SMEs felt they were effectively subsidising homeowner's domestic recycling at a time when they are already faced with increased regulation and costs.

Jane Bennett, the FPB's head of campaigns, said: "We found our Scottish members generally support the Government's zero waste recycling policy and understand the reasons for its introduction, with many feeling businesses have been lagging behind households in this area for some time."

"There are certainly some concerns about the impact of the policy, particularly in terms of time and cost when it comes to compliance."

"What's quite clear is that the zero waste team must ensure the impact of the policy on small businesses is kept to a minimum."

The FPB has said that stronger communication between Government, local authorities and SMEs, is essential. It also welcomed a more relaxed approach to regulation for start-up firms, with the Scottish Government already deciding to exempt SMEs from new food waste requirements until 2015.

The FPB is now calling for the Government to consult more widely with SMEs regarding the policy.