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19 April 2006

FSB WARN SMALL FIRMS ABOUT FORTHCOMING RAFT OF ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION

Reference number: PPO 19/4

FSB WARN SMALL FIRMS ABOUT FORTHCOMING RAFT OF ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION

The Federation of Small Businesses in Wales has warned firms about a raft of forthcoming environmental legislation.

They said that a dozen new environmental regulations have just been introduced or are about to reach the statute books.

They also said it was worrying that according to Environment Agency statistics, 94 per cent of small businesses believed their business had no environmental impact at all.

FSB Welsh Policy chair, Roland Sherwood, said: “The specific challenge for smaller companies is that they don’t have environmental experts to advise them. As a result, they often see the issue as just another burden.

“Yet, if they aren’t persuaded by the threat of global warming, then they should be by the promise of the considerable cost savings that tend to come from better environmental practices. In any case, there is so much new legislation coming in around this area that it makes sense to act now.

“A dozen new environmental regulations have just been introduced or are about to reach the statute books. In July 2004, the Landfill Directive banned the co-disposal of hazardous wastes with other types of waste. This led to a dramatic reduction in the number of landfill sites available, from 240 sites to fewer than 15. Some areas, including Wales and London, now have no landfill capacity available to them.

“Then in July 2005, the Hazardous Waste Directive came into force. It created 200 new classifications of items, so that things like fluorescent tubes, television sets, batteries and computer monitors are now considered hazardous.

“It obliged businesses that produce, handle, store, treat or dispose of such wastes to adopt new practices. They must register with the Environment Agency and pay a fee for doing so. Businesses producing less than 200kg of hazardous waste are exempt.

“The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive is the one causing the greatest number of problems for small companies. It will regulate the disposal of electrical equipment, and all those involved in manufacturing, selling, distributing, recycling or treating of electrical and electronic equipment will be affected.

“Distributors, including retailers, of that equipment will be responsible for collecting it from household users at the end of its life. Producers will need to ensure all collected material is treated and recycled to the required standards in order to minimise the environmental impact of its disposal,” he said.

Just three days before it was due to come into effect in August, the DTI announced it was being delayed until 2006. It said this decision reflected the Government’s concerns that an adequate UK network of facilities for separate collection of WEEE should be in place for householders to use.

FSB spokesman, Russell Lawson, said: “In mid-2006 the Batteries Directive is expected to become law in the UK. This will require all companies involved in the life-cycle of batteries and accumulators to ensure those batteries are all collected and recycled at the end of their lives.

“The Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS) becomes law in July 2006. Most new electrical and electronic equipment must not contain a range of substances including lead, mercury and cadmium.

“There may well be even more regulations than this. Many experts anticipate an amendment to Waste Management Regulations to include agricultural waste and non-mineral waste from mines and quarries. They expect to see further measures to increase the amount of packaging waste for which products become responsible for disposal. Meanwhile, The End of Life Vehicles Directive will impose further obligations on anyone involved with vehicles.

“So how will these affect small businesses? Individually, these regulations are an irritation for SMEs, many of whom are already struggling to comply with rules governing staff, taxation, health and safety and so on. Cumulatively, the regulations are potentially catastrophic for a great many companies.

“The FSB has warned that the RoHS regulations alone could impose huge costs on 20,000 businesses. Any business using lead in its machinery will have to update that equipment - this could easily cost many of them tens of thousands of pounds.

“One way to make the pain of compliance more bearable is to gain an external accreditation, such as the BS8555 Acorn Scheme. It takes smaller companies as rapidly or slowly as they wish through six phases of environmental management. The second phase deals directly and comprehensively with legal compliance. At the end, companies receive an accreditation they can use to impress regulators, customers, and employees.

“Many small businesses presume they are exempt from these rules when they are not. This is a big problem and the guidance from government has been less than adequate. We’ve been working with other interested parties to lobby government for exemptions and assistance for UK small businesses. We’ve had some successes but there is still much to do,” he said.