Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent the economic back-bone of developed countries because these entities invest their human resources in a variety of economic activities. This investment leads to the building of strong economies without the necessity for citizens to depend on governments and public-sector employment. On studying the economies of the powerful and rich nations, we see that SMEs dominate the economy and provide the majority of job opportunities

The World Bank defines a small business as an entity consisting of 10 or fewer employees, whereas a medium-sized business employs a maximum of 50 persons. Developing countries are seeking to encourage SMEs by legislating a package of investment incentives to strengthen the economy and to create jobs.

 The question that many ask is: how can the new generation create small or medium enterprises and move away from working in state or public institutions?

In reality, there is an even more urgent need than before for initiatives in the face of state institutions making staff redundancies so as to encourage young people to opt for the private sector, however, these young people must rely on themselves to look for opportunities with small and medium enterprises. Under current economic conditions, how can these young people find work outside the government sector and create opportunities for themselves within small and medium-sized enterprises?

It is here that the government needs to intervene to guide them towards profit-making businesses that last, while at the same time serving the wider community. It is important that government planning for these small businesses should not be random or ineffectual or short-sighted. Instead, it should be successful, serve the long-term and solve social problems.

Among these opportunities is the waste recycling sector, which can prove lucrative, as most of the raw materials can be obtained either free of charge or at extremely low prices. This means the start-up capital can be relatively modest compared to the potential profits that can be made from such a venture. Needless to say, a business of this nature will also help the environment and save it from the mountains of waste.

The recycling of waste could potentially yield high profits if reliance is made on modern sorting and recycling machinery. By contrast, a labour-intensive, low-tech recycling centre, will suffer from low productivity and create chaos and environmental pollution.

Here we propose the launch of a programme to encourage the private sector to work in the recycling of waste by providing different forms of financial and procedural incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises. When reviewing the experience of the private sector in some countries such as the UK, we see that over time some small companies have grown into large corporations and have earned big profits in waste management.

Such a programme may be usefully deployed for the recycling of the following categories of waste:

  • Category 1: recycling of millions of tonnes of ordinary paper and hard paper board waste each year.
  • Category 2: plastic recycling; there are dozens of types that are mostly recyclable.
  • Category 3: recycle metals for future use, such as iron, steel, aluminium, copper, and stainless steel.
  • Category 4: recycle non-contaminated wood, such as wooden pallets, wood boxes, panels, plywood, and furniture.
  • Category 5: recycle non-contaminated glass which is suitable for treatment, such as glass bottles, window glass, etc.
  • Category 6: recycling hundreds of thousands of tonnes, if not more, of textile waste disposed each year, given the fact that many of the textile types that are thrown away, are recyclable and treatable.
  • Category 7: recycle hard building rubble, such as building bricks, into reusable materials. The hard rubble from industrial installations and construction and demolition sites, is carried away in lorries to recycling centres, where it is crushed and re-processed to obtain different grades of aggregate, which is then reused in construction sites.
  • Category 8: recycling of electrical and electronic waste.
  • Category 9: recycling of batteries; classed as hazardous industrial waste that must be disposed of properly.
  • Category 10: electrical light bulbs, which are also classed as hazardous waste, because they all contain environmentally harmful mercury. As such, they must be disposed of by first removing the mercury, and then the glass may be completely recycled.
  • Category 11: recycling of tyres by shredding. Rubber mulch is used as ground cover in stadiums and in surface materials for sports fields, and is used in the manufacture of rubber mats, speed bumps on roads, and others.
  • Category 12: recycling of food waste into feed and fertilizer. For example, waste recycling companies in Ireland are recycling food waste and treating tens of thousands of tonnes of organic food waste, which in the past would have been dumped. These companies produce high quality fertilizer for agricultural use.

Purchase of recyclable waste

The main problem is how to educate people about how to dispose of their household waste into designated containers, and how to train the rubbish collectors about rubbish collection from houses and commercial areas as they pass by, all of whom are usually reluctant to comply with the instructions published by local government. This usually results in the householder or business owner in having to dump their waste at the nearest waste collection site. In the absence of a sense of civic responsibility, waste is dumped anywhere and everywhere, with the result that some open spaces in residential areas or on public streets have been transformed into ad hoc landfills.

Therefore, the best solution is to purchase the above-mentioned waste at low prices, to the benefit of all concerned (the citizen, the waste recycling company, the environment and the economy). Here we are talking about a government sponsored programme that organises private sector businesses in the recycling of different types of waste.

It is then for the owners of these small and medium-sized enterprises to purchase garbage trucks, even if second-hand, and to establish waste storage and sorting centres in accordance with health regulations, and to deal with non-recyclable waste by handing it over to competent governmental or private service institutions for proper disposal.

The government sponsored programme could include providing facilities for small and medium-sized enterprises to access storage, sorting and recycling facilities, and offering garbage trucks and recycling machines at reduced prices or assist with making soft loans and tax exemptions for a specified period of time.

The purpose of ​​this programme will be to educate the population in the sorting of different types of waste into bags or boxes. For example, by placing plastic materials in a bag; wooden materials in a box and glassware in a container, and so on. And then to set fixed days on which the waste disposal company’s trucks pass by the homes and commercial premises to collect waste and pay an appropriate sum for each quantity of different type of waste. At the same time, also establish centres in each area to purchase waste from households and commercial premises. It is then up to the small and medium-sized entrepreneurs to promote their businesses and introduce people to the new collection methods as prescribed by the above-mentioned 12 categories. It would not be viable for each and every business to collect every type of waste in the 12 recycling categories. This could prove financially difficult for SMEs, however, an individual small businesses can be allocated one or more category of waste.

Modern recycling plants are now much more efficient, as well as achieving cost and energy savings. The sorting and processing equipment is faster, more durable and can handle more materials than ever before. The costs associated with the treatment of recyclable materials have declined significantly because the volume of materials that can be processed per minute has risen dramatically.

Countries that import waste, such as China, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, are known as trans-frontier shipments of waste. Sweden, for instance, has large numbers of waste-to-energy conversion centres, and Swedish companies turn most of the waste into fuel for power generation during the long winters, which means they avoid disposing of any combustible waste into landfills.

There is little doubt that waste recycling is a major economic resource for a country and with beneficial results. In a report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, it is claimed that the recycling of one tonne of waste, rather than landfilling, has a multiple positive effect on the economy.

Recycling an extra tonne of waste translates into more salaries and wages; and more goods and services. In California, with a population of about 40 million people, there are 5,300 waste recycling companies employing in the region of 85,000 people; generating annually about $4 billion in wages and salaries and about $10 billion in goods and services. In addition to creating more jobs and increasing economic activity at the local level, recycling adds about $200 million a year to California’s treasury from sales tax revenues. This additional revenue helps the local government to fund public services such as health and social services and to fund transport improvements.