A business excellence through resource efficiency (Betre) project achieved phenomenal success promoting resource efficiency and waste minimisation among SMEs in the UK.
The East Sussex Betre project (ES Betre rural) encouraged resource efficiency and waste minimisation in farming and tourism in the Wealden and Rother districts of East Sussex in south-east England. Running from June 2005 to December 2006, ES Betre rural highlighted the benefits of better resource and waste management, surpassing all expectations in the process.
In a region of low economic performance – 65% of the national GDP average – the project aimed to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) comply with environmental legislation and simulate improvements in efficiency and behaviour. The initiative's intention was to spread information on best practices for solid waste minimisation, recycling, energy and water efficiency.
Some 170 businesses used the project's services through 102 helpline enquires, 23 environmental audits, 5 grants, 4 training events, and 4 newsletters. The project also highlighted other best practice programmes such as Envirowise – a UK Government-funded programme dedicated to putting the sustainable use of resources at the heart of business practice – and the Carbon Trust, a UK government-funded company that helps businesses and the public sector to cut carbon emissions and to exploit the potential of low carbon technologies.
The project helped its participants achieve substantial savings by promoting measures that reduced solid waste and increased energy efficiency, the use of renewables and rain-water harvesting. These factors all combined to reduce carbon emissions, and raised awareness of legislation. Due to high energy costs, water shortages and new agricultural waste regulations, the project attracted interest from a significant number of farmers.
Potential savings of 48% were realised, twice as much as any other waste-reduction scheme. The total savings – €343 300 – were almost three times greater than the €125 968 running costs. There were waste reductions of 176 tonnes, water savings of 17 567 m3 , energy savings of 1.76 million kWh and a 42 703 kWh increase in renewable energy. Carbon dioxide emissions were also reduced by 487 tonnes.
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ES Betre rural was jointly funded by the EU Leader+ initiative and local authorities, and was part of a national waste strategy that contributed €3.76 million to 64 projects across England. The project demonstrated that the uptake of such initiatives was strongest when coupled with new environmental legislation. As it addressed issues common to the agricultural sectors of many Member States, such as getting to grips with new agricultural waste regulations, the project could well be replicated elsewhere in the EU.
Leader+ initiative: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/rur/leaderplus/index_en.htm
ES Betre rural combined awareness raising with grants to ensure real benefits for a number of businesses. Prime examples of its success can be found among the winners of the ES Betre rural Green Action Awards for achieving significant resource and cost savings. Typically, Rye Chamber of Commerce set up a cardboard-recycling scheme with the help of a Green Action Award in the form of a €315 grant. The scheme enabled users to dispose of their cardboard free of charge at a local supermarket in Rye once a week. This initiative is estimated to recycle 26 tonnes of cardboard a year, and result in waste-disposal savings of £8 500 for local business.