Tougher UK recycling laws have come into force today, introducing a requirement for all non-hazardous waste to be sorted by type and recycled where possible to minimise the amount of rubbish heading for landfill.
Examples include separating uncooked meat and fish to be sent for composting, recycling plastic wrap and cardboard where possible and sending cooking oil off for use as biodiesel fuel.
The changes are being made as part of the European Landfill Directive but critics argue the Government has not done enough to promote the changes.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said it supported the principles of the new rules, but warned that the Government has not worked hard enough to ensure businesses are aware of the new regulation.
"The Environment Agency must do more to let small businesses know what their obligations are," said FSB chairman John Holbrow. "Putting information on a website is simply not enough. There must be widespread publicity otherwise small businesses could be punished for breaking laws they knew nothing about."
However, John Dyson, food and technical affairs adviser at the British Hospitality Association, said both hospitality operators and commercial and council refuse service providers were prepared for the new regulations.
"I don't think this will make a huge difference as much of it is common sense and most hospitality businesses are already doing it without realising," he said. "Due to restrictions introduced last year businesses will already be disposing of their cooking oil responsibly as well."
In a recent survey of more than 350 small hotels and restaurants by NetRegs.gov.uk, the Environment Agency's guidance website, more than half of the respondents admitted to storing chemicals, fuel or oils, while 28% produced or imported packaging. Many operators didn't realise that these were potentially harmful activities.
Last year, small and medium-sized businesses in the UK were fined a total of £2.4m for pollution and environmental damage and NetRegs warned that a lack of understanding could land hotels and restaurants in hot water.
The Government also announced in this year's Budget that the landfill levy - which has already increased to £21 per tonne for 2006-07 - will escalate from April next year by £8 per tonne per year until 2010-11 as efforts are made to end landfill entirely.
By Chris Druce
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