Is collaboration answer to help SMEs recycle more?

There was a lot of talk about collaboration at yesterday’s Commercial Waste: Reaching out to SME’s conference, organised by, particularly when purchasing products and services.

Collaborative consumption is a popular phrase in current circulation, according to Daniel O’Connor, waste manager at Newcastle University, where items or services are shared by many people, rather than bought and used by only one individual or organisation. Car sharing schemes would be the most common example of this, where people pay to use a car at certain times, than owning one for continual use.

Taken at a business level this can include renting office furniture and equipment from a provider who maintains the products throughout their life, ensuring they work to optimum efficiency and disposing of them, through reuse, recycling or recovery once an organisation has finished with them. It would mean businesses would deal with just the one firm for the purchase and disposal of equipment, rather than the numerous parties they currently do.

Office furniture could be maintained and disposed of by one service provider

Photo: Rosen Georgiev

Those service providers linked into a reuse network could help to prolong the life of products, supplying them to other communities that can still make use of them. For smaller businesses that are tight on resources and time this could provide a way of improving efficiencies across their firm.

Collaborative procurement of recycling and waste services is one way that could help large numbers of SMEs in specific areas get the recycling service suited to their needs. In ongoing research WRAP has been looking at ways to overcome barriers to recycling by SMEs through its research on redesigning trade waste collections. This work includes the development of different models where businesses join forces on the recycling collection, providing more frequent, regular and convenient collections and reducing administration, contract management and waste management costs.

The different models under discussion include:

  • Supplier / Delivery Take-Back
  • Collaboratively procured service, with collections from each business
  • Hub business offers support to other businesses; with materials ‘bulked’ at one of the participating businesses’ premises
  • Hybrid of bullet points 2 and 3, involving a few large businesses, located on one central site; with material bulked centrally
  • Communal bins

It makes sense to collaborate in certain areas but for businesses to achieve this they will need to have clear, transparent policies and be willing to engage with a variety of organisations and firms. On the whole we’re not very successful at  talking to one another if we work in different departments within an organisation, let alone sharing good business practices with one another. For collaboration to truly succeed we’ll need behaviour change on a grand scale – do we have enough insight to achieve this?


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