The Don Rother Dearne project was launched by the Centre for Exploitation of Science and Technology (CEST) in 1996 with funding from the BOC Foundation, the Environment Agency, the Co-operative Bank and Yorkshire Water. Following an SME recruitment drive in early 1997, it eventually attracted 24 participants, 18 of which were SMEs.
CEST found that recruiting SMEs was difficult. Obstacles included time constraints, lack of capital and in some cases limited scope for savings.
The project report, published in November, also suggests that SMEs tend to be relatively efficient. 1 The scope for savings is "generally less in percentage terms" than in larger firms, in part because consumption patterns and waste streams are more visible.
Five of the 18 SMEs made savings of less than £1,000, and two of those less than £100. Nevertheless, on average the SMEs saved almost £10,000 per year.
CEST concludes that "the experience overall is that the barriers can be worked round and that there is a significant benefit for the majority of SMEs." Many of the companies are now building on the experience to introduce certified environmental management systems.
The scheme's total running costs were around £200,000, of which 37% came from the participating companies. The project has already achieved £565,000 of annual savings, and opportunities to double these have been identified.
Most of the opportunities cost nothing or had a payback period of less than a year (see figure ). These generally involved procedural changes or minor modifications to equipment. Quick returns were of particular importance to SMEs, many of which considered a two-year payback period too long.
The biggest savings were achieved by cutting energy or water consumption. The annual environmental benefits include reductions of 4,500 tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions, 5,100m 3 in waste sent to landfill and 275,000m 3 in water consumption. Examples include:
CEST has also reported recently on a waste minimisation project in Kent. 2 The Medway and Swale project ran for 18 months to the end of 1997. It identified more than 200 minimisation opportunities and potential annual savings of over £4 million for its 25 members. Again, most of the opportunities cost nothing or had very short payback times.
Major savings have been achieved by Blue Circle Cement and Zeneca Agrochemicals - £700,000 and £567,000 per year, respectively. Pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer identified annual savings of around £1,680,000, but has yet to implement many of the measures.
CEST cites commitment from senior management, a high level of employee involvement, and the development of a clear and structured approach as essential to success.