September 23, 2020
The Changing Face of Commercial Recycling in Europe (part 2)
This week we released the findings of our second Love Recycling study. An investigation into the effect 2020 has had on commercial recycling.
As part one of the Love Recycling research project ended earlier this year, national lockdowns were just coming into effect across Europe. As the consequences of lockdown and the impact on businesses and workers became apparent, there were indications their recycling and waste management processes would be affected.
The survey we undertook between July and September was designed to find out what impact these kinds of changes were having on practical recycling efforts as well as the perception and intention for commercial recycling practices.
78% of businesses suffered disruption related to COVID-19 and 56% reported a direct impact on their recycling practices
When almost four-out-of-five businesses are experiencing operational disruption, it’s inevitable that multiple sectors are affected and that, whether they stayed open or closed during lockdown, their recycling and waste disposal practices would be impacted.
Like other businesses, commercial waste collection and recycling entities were shutting down during lockdown, creating knock-on effects for businesses that were open.
Retail stores saw unprecedented levels of trade in the early part of lockdown, while healthcare facilities created greater amounts of unrecyclable waste, such as PPE, that required isolation before being incinerated.
Commercial Recycling Remains a Priority Issue
When asked to rank the importance of recycling, the majority of businesses rank it of more importance than creating consistent returns for shareholders.
Survey respondents were clear in indicating that hand hygiene provisions for customers and staff is a top priority. This is understandable when the safety of customers and staff is the key priority of any reputable business.
Less of a priority for business has been the implementation of PPE waste disposal. Excluding healthcare facilities that likely had PPE disposal in place prior to the pandemic, only 1-in-5 businesses have implemented specific disposal methods.
Given the potentially hazardous nature of PPE, that needs isolating before being disposed of, more businesses and commercial waste collection agencies need to consider splitting this stream of waste out, to keep people safe. Improperly disposed of PPE, or worse, littered PPE, has the potential to become a problematic new waste stream.
More than a third of business say they will recycle more because of the pandemic, but will need help with recycling solutions
In one of the standout findings, over a third of businesses that we spoke to said they will recycle more as a direct result of the pandemic and 86% of businesses agree it will make recycling a greater area of focus for them in the future.
Whether these intentions stem from a desire to catch up on lost time or a renewed sense of the place recycling occupies in keeping our planet healthy, it is reassuring to hear that businesses will continue to increase their recycling focus and activities.
With that in mind, businesses that implement or increase recycling activities need to make sure they are underpinned by the potential for success. 72% of the respondents to our survey admitted that their current recycling efforts are not always successful. This, coupled with just 26% having a formalised CSER policy, shows that businesses have good intentions, but more can be done to ensure those good intentions are parlayed into successful actions.
The Complete Report
As businesses revert to a state of operations akin to those prior to the pandemic, there is an opportunity, and motivation, for them to continue the drive for more sustainable operations and implement better recycling solutions.
During lockdown there have been scenes from around the world of the way the world looks without waste and pollution. Most striking of these have been the images of China’s city skylines, often blotted by smog, appearing clear and bright as a result of a 40% drop in coal usage this year.
We remain optimistic for the future of recycling and responsible waste management and will continue to support businesses that want to take control of their sustainability efforts and improve our shared environment.
You can download The Changing Face of Commercial Recycling in Europe (part 2), with the full findings and insights, for free at loverecycling.com
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