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Plastic waste a ‘significant problem’ for UK SMEs

SMEs across the UK are almost uniformly in agreement that plastic waste is a problem that needs to be dealt with, leading many to implement their own initiatives to reduce the amount they generate, a survey of 900 businesses conducted on behalf of Close Brothers Asset Finance reveals. 

Plastic waste infographic  

  • 83% feel plastic waste is ‘a problem’  
  • 63% have initiatives in place to reduce their reliance on plastic  
  • 58% aren’t being incentivised enough to reduce the amount of plastic waste they use 

More than 4 in every 5 (83%) businesses – regardless of size or sector – answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘do you feel that plastic waste is a problem?’; in the Transport and Haulage industry, the figure rises to 92%. 

The realisation that plastic waste is a key issue of our times has prompted 63% of those surveyed to do something proactive about the amount of waste they generate by putting in place initiatives to reduce their reliance on plastic. The research also found that the smaller the firm, the less likely they are to be doing something about it, relying instead on individuals to take action themselves. 

“With the environmental damage caused by plastic waste becoming increasingly clear, companies are taking it upon themselves to do something about it,” said Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance. “It looks as if momentum is building, with over half of those polled having actively investigated alternatives to plastic.” 


Of the 900 business owners surveyed, 58% of firms feel they aren’t being incentivised enough to reduce the amount of plastic waste they use and produce. The lack of encouragement is felt most acutely in companies where there are the fewest employees (between 1 -10), where 69% aren’t feeling suitably enticed.  “Incentives are a proven way to mobilise both businesses and individuals to take action,” said Neil.

“A good example is solar PV where various schemes have seen a significant uptake in generation while a substantial reduction in government subsidy has not ended interest in solar investment.”  

Alternatives to plastic

Over half of firms (54%) polled have actively investigated alternatives to plastic, with the food and drink sector particularly proactive (67%), followed by retail (59%) and manufacturing (59%). 

“There is an obvious demand for alternatives from both consumers and businesses,” said Neil. “Industry is clearly part of the solution and not the problem, and with a history of innovation I strongly believe more options will become available in the foreseeable future, ranging from utilising existing waste to create energy to the manufacture of less harmful packaging products.”


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a GMI survey conducted in August 2018. The survey canvassed the opinion of nearly 1,000 SME owners across the UK and RoI and across several industries on a range of issues affecting their businesses.