A survey of 1,000 small and medium-sized businesses by waste and recycling company Biffa shows that only 20 per cent of companies are disposing of their hazardous waste legally. This means that eight out of 10 SMEs are leaving themselves potentially open to fines and prosecution.Hazardous wastes include commonplace items such as aerosols, light bulbs, batteries, oily rags and electrical/compute equipment. Since 2005, the law dictates that these materials, which could cause specific harm to the environment or human health, should be collected separately for treatment and disposal. “The problem arises because many small businesses are only generating tiny amounts of hazardous wastes, so they don’t think putting it in the normal rubbish bin is a problem,” explains Biffa’s CEO Ian Wakelin. “But if your company throws out an old computer, polish cans or even a tin of leftover paint, by law they need to be treated properly.” In fact almost a third (32 per cent) of respondents said they were not confident their employees knew how to identify and dispose of hazardous waste correctly, with materials such as metal (14 per cent), empty tins/cans (16 per cent) and wood (5 per cent) among the least-identified forms of every day hazardous waste. Failure to comply with regulations can not only result in fines and prosecutions but also have a harmful effect on the environment, wildlife and human health.
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