The cost of waste disposal has been increasing at a rate well above inflation and, for most organisations, is set to rise further during 2014. Price increase notices will be dropping through letterboxes over the next couple of months, triggered by rises in landfill tax and gate fees on 1 April. Landfill tax is due to increase from £72 to £80 per tonne, a rise of 11 per cent, as part of the government’s strategy to encourage recycling and greater resource efficiency. Compounding this issue is the fact that, in many areas, landfill capacity is reducing, consequently tempting site operators to increase their own gate fees too. As a result, waste collection cost increases in the range of 5 to 15 per cent are expected from April, depending on where in the UK you are located. Less scrupulous contractors may try to take advantage of this situation by seeking to ‘tag on’ increases of their own at the same time in order to increase their profit margins.
A further challenge for waste producers is looming on the horizon as a result of the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011. From 1 January 2015, there is a requirement for all organisations to arrange for the separate collection of waste paper, metal, plastic and glass. Any schools not currently segregating all of these materials for recycling need to start thinking about the changes to waste-handling procedures sooner rather than later as teething problems are almost inevitable when making alterations both internally and with service providers. Regulations in Scotland demand these changes even sooner, from 1 January 2014. However, the good news is that, if new arrangements are implemented in line with best practice and with the support of a reputable supplier, costs should actually reduce as a result.
Of course, many schools will already have arrangements in place to recycle some or all of the required materials. The next logical step then is to look at food waste, which will typically make up a significant proportion of the remaining residual waste. Schools in Scotland which produce over 50kg of food waste per week need to ensure that this is collected separately too from 1 January 2014. Whilst not yet legislated in England or Wales, there is clearly an economic driver to reduce food waste and minimise the volume sent to landfill. Food waste treatment is a sector undergoing rapid development and growth in the UK, with competing technologies emerging for both on- and off-site treatment of organic wastes. When identifying the most appropriate option, schools first need to consider whether to purchase or lease their own equipment so that food waste can be treated on site, or to have the waste collected by a contractor who will deliver it to a food waste treatment facility.
One note of caution when reviewing waste and recycling collection arrangements is that schools need to consider the terms and conditions relating to existing supplier contracts. Typically, waste contracts are ‘evergreen’, i.e. renewing on an annual basis unless action is taken to terminate them within a given window each year, usually three months in advance of the anniversary of their original commencement date. Failure to observe these terms is likely to result in penalties being imposed. Advance planning is therefore required in order to minimise the cost of changing suppliers or arrangements.
All in all, this seems like an ideal time for schools to be reviewing waste handling procedures and contracts in order to minimise costs as well as work towards compliance with future legislative requirements and CSR objectives.
Pete Bramhall is a consultant with Expense Reduction Analysts