Low carbon world means high profit businesses


An upsurge in environmental legislation, combined with public demand for sustainable living means the future is green. Andrew Norman explains why.


The recycling industry has been around for a long time in the guise of traditional businesses such as scrap metal merchants and reclamation businesses operating alongside demolition contractors.


However, the last decade has seen a radical step-change in the sector which has shed its shabby image and acquired the mantle of a dynamic, forward looking industry with green credentials second to none.


This transformation has in part been driven by regulatory requirements, such as the EU framework directive on waste, bolstered by legislation from the UK government.


Equally importantly, the environmental virtues of recycling have entered the public consciousness on a national – and indeed international – level. We are all familiar with the globally recognised logo that promotes recycling as an integral part of living a ‘greener’, more altruistic life.


As a result, recycling is now a central activity in most business sectors, from oils and plastics to household and green waste. The cost of treating waste and the long term shortage of landfill sites has propelled recycling into fresh economic pastures, with businesses in the sector capable of enormous profitability.


The economic strategy for recycling is driven by the ever increasing costs of waste management and escalating concerns over climate change. Figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate that almost 35 per cent of UK household waste in 2007/08 was recycled.


Although this is in line with many countries in the EU, there is still room for improvement. Austria recycles 60 per cent of its waste and the UK National Waste Strategy, backed by the government, requires the country’s household recycling level to rise to 45 per cent by 2015.


Successful recycling and waste businesses have invested in both capital equipment as well as systems and procedures to ensure that they have obtained the appropriate licences and can provide the necessary audit traceability of used materials.


Powerful growth in the sector also brings challenges. Over the coming years, recycling and waste management businesses will have to develop continuing efficiency measures in recycling techniques, deliver innovation through new technology, and educate businesses and individuals in the benefits of recycling. All this will need to be supported with a capital investment programme to meet continually increasing demand.


However, the main aims of recycling and waste management – to save energy, reduce waste in landfill sites and help create a low-carbon economy – are in harmony with legislative requirements and public sentiment. The upshot is a sector with massive and sustainable growth potential.