Re­cy­cling model to boost econ­omy by £150m

plans to boost Bryson’s ex­ist­ing £100m con­tri­bu­tion to North­ern Ire­land’s econ­omy via its own ‘cir­cu­lar econ­omy’ ap­proach. That ap­proach sees over 80% of re­cy­cling ma­te­ri­als it col­lects here go­ing to ma­jor pro­cess­ing com­pa­nies in­clud­ing pack­ag­ing firm Hu

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page - BY EMMA DEIGHAN

THE head of so­cial en­ter­prise Bryson Re­cy­cling has said he is now on a mis­sion to add £150m to the North­ern Ire­land econ­omy.

Eric Ran­dall of Bryson Re­cy­cling, which had a turnover of £13.5m last year, said he had

Eric Ran­dall, di­rec­tor at Bryson Re­cy­cling, takes his work home with him. He says his 25 years at the re­cy­cling so­cial en­ter­prise has been more than just a job. It’s a vo­ca­tion.

“I cy­cled to work this morn­ing and I have so­lar pan­els on my roof,” he says, reaf­firm­ing that com­mit­ment.

A keen bird­watcher, Eric says he’s al­ways been in­ter­ested in na­ture and the en­vi­ron­ment. And if he wasn’t run­ning the re­cy­cling en­ter­prise here that posted a turnover of £13.5m last year, he’d be the war­den of a na­ture re­serve.

“The pro­grammes that show chicks starv­ing on the beach and eat­ing small pieces of plas­tic in­stead of squid, that re­ally con­nects with me. I’m watch­ing those birds and I think their qual­ity of life is im­por­tant to our en­joy­ment of life. Wildlife and na­ture is in my blood,” he says.

Born in Dur­ban, South Africa, Eric re­lo­cated to Eng­land with his fam­ily when he was eight years old. A string of moves around the UK con­cluded with the Ran­dall fam­ily of five set­tling in Brighton.

Eric went on to study en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence at univer­sity in Brad­ford. It was a course that set him up for one fi­nal move in 1993 to North­ern Ire­land where Bryson Re­cy­cling was be­ing launched.

And to­day he is at the helm of a team that has rev­o­lu­tionised the way North­ern Ire­land pro­cesses house­hold waste.

When Eric joined the en­ter­prise on the Ormeau Road in Belfast 25 years ago, it was just about to em­bark on a cam­paign that would seek to change the mind­set of con­sumers here.

“I came in to set up Cash for Cans, a scheme that started out with three Gov­ern­ment-funded trainees,” he says.

“It saw vans parked in su­per­mar­kets where con­sumers would re­ceive a penny for ev­ery can they re­cy­cled. It was a pop­u­lar project and got a huge amount of back­ing.

“But then it be­came ap­par­ent to us that we had to do some­thing dif­fer­ent to en­cour­age re­cy­cling be­cause alu­minium was get­ting light and it was harder to get cash for it be­cause the price was fluc­tu­at­ing,” he adds.

Mount­ing pres­sure to find al­ter­na­tive means to boost re­cy­cling and to meet in­com­ing EU laws meant North­ern Ire­land had to act fast to shift its re­cy­cling psy­che. And Bryson was the firm that helped lo­cal coun­cils here achieve that.

“There was a lot of ac­tiv­ity hap­pen­ing else­where in the UK and EU di­rec­tives were com­ing through and they were go­ing to im­pact on us, so we were able to get a grant and carry out a fea­si­bil­ity study on how house­hold re­cy­cling could be in­tro­duced.”

The study took place in the year 2000 af­ter which a trial be­gan. It was a door-to-door col­lec­tion ser­vice, a pi­lot kerb­side pickup scheme that be­gan ser­vic­ing 8,000 house­holds us­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

“We were re­ally ahead of our­selves,” says Eric, re­fer­ring to the ve­hi­cles. “I apol­o­gise to all those driv­ers on the Bal­ly­gowan Road for the de­lays we caused.

“They were a bit like milk floats which are de­signed to off-load weight whereas we were pick­ing up weight so we couldn’t have gone over 20mph.”

Those vans may have pre­sented a chal­lenge for the trial but in no way did they im­pact on the suc­cess that ser­vice reaped.

“As a re­sult of those tri­als in 2004/05, when coun­cils re­alised they had to do some­thing, we picked up con­tract af­ter con­tract.

“We won all the early door-todoor ser­vices and now we run a plant that sep­a­rates and pro­cesses that re­cy­cling,” Eric says.

Those early ini­tia­tives have made Bryson Re­cy­cling the largest so­cial en­ter­prise re­cy­cler in the UK to­day, em­ploy­ing more than 280 staff.

And the com­pany now de­liv­ers its ser­vices across all of North- ern Ire­land, parts of Done­gal and North Wales. It ser­vices 1.8 mil­lion house­holds and col­lects re­cy­clables from more than 500 busi­nesses and schools here.

Over its life­time it has re­cy­cled more than 675,000 tonnes of ma­te­ri­als, not just alu­minium.

Bryson can cater for var­i­ous types of house­hold re­cy­cling ma­te­ri­als, with the most re­cent trend see­ing an in­crease in plas­tic re­pro­cess­ing. Last year alone it pro­cessed more than 212 mil­lion plas­tic items.

Eric says that on a daily ba­sis its Ormeau Road base pro­cesses 30 tonnes of plas­tic, which is packed in 350kg cubes that are piled at the site in nou­veau art-like bales.

He paints a pic­ture to de­scribe the vast­ness of what North­ern Ire­land is now re­cy­cling daily on the site: “It would fill one-and-a-half 40ft ar­tic­u­lated lor­ries per day.”

It’s a ma­jor step for­ward from the days when house­holds had to re­ceive pay­ment to en­cour­age re­cy­cling.

And that’s not only thanks to ac­ces­si­bil­ity to ser­vices but also cam­paigns and me­dia ef­forts which have high­lighted the dam­age house­hold waste is in­flict­ing on the planet, Eric says. These in­clude the crit­i­cally ac­claimed Blue Planet tele­vi­sion pro­gramme, nar­rated by Sir David At­ten­bor­ough.

“That show in­creased aware­ness about plas­tics and it en­cour­aged peo­ple to re­cy­cle more and of­fered us the op­por­tu­nity to boost our re­cy­cling rates.

“There is only one other time that I can re­call when some­thing

com­ing out of ad­ver­tis­ing or me­dia had such a pro­found ef­fect on the gen­eral psy­che of re­cy­cling.

“Af­ter Blue Planet aired we saw the amount of plas­tic we re­cy­cled jump up by 25%. When you con­vert that, it’s more than 200,000 items ev­ery day.

“And to­day I think now peo­ple in­her­ently feel sym­pa­thetic to­wards en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.”

Among Bryson’s lat­est ini­tia­tives is its kerb­side wheelie box col­lec­tion, which al­lows for sep­a­ra­tion of ecy­clable items, from paper and bat­ter­ies to old hand tools and drinks cans. It’s avail­able across five dif­fer­ent coun­cil ar­eas.

Its mis­sion to­day is also to cham­pion a cir­cu­lar ap­proach to re­cy­cling in North­ern Ire­land with more than 80% of ma­te­ri­als col­lected go­ing to lo­cal re­pro­cess­ing com­pa­nies, which sus­tains around 1,000 jobs lo­cally.

Huh­ta­maki, Cherry Pipes and En­circ all re­pro­cess ma­te­ri­als col­lected by Bryson.

This col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach with three re­pro­ces­sors and a num­ber of coun­cils adds more than £100m ev­ery year to the NI econ­omy and Bryson has am­bi­tions to in­crease this by a fur­ther 50% in com­ing years.

Eric cred­its North­ern Ire­land house­holds with do­ing a great deal to come round to re­cyling.

But have we done enough, and em­bed­ded re­cyling suf­fi­ciently in our day-to-day lives?

Eric says yes, but “there’s more to do”. He says: “I think we should stop and ac­knowl­edge the dis­tance that we have trav­elled al­ready.

“There has been sub­stan­tial im­prove­ment since we started but we are at a level where we ask what do we do next and I’m clear that there are huge steps for­ward that we can be mak­ing.”

Eric ref­er­ences Bryson’s re­cy­cling ac­tiv­ity in North Wales as one to as­pire to have here.

“The em­pha­sis is switch­ing from re­cy­cling to reuse. The way we han­dle waste is a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to cli­mate change but it’s eas­ily fixed.

“Reusing ma­te­ri­als rather than min­ing vir­gin ma­te­ri­als is a car­bon win.

“In North Wales we work with the coun­cil and Welsh gov­ern­ment to es­tab­lish a reuse shop on the site that we work on. The store sells a range of stuff, and ac­tu­ally high qual­ity stuff, that has oth­er­wise been thrown into the re­cy­cling.

“It’s an amaz­ing va­ri­ety. We have bi­cy­cles, sports equip­ment, furniture and bric-a-brac, and we are mak­ing £2,500 to £3,000 per week on that.”

Money earned from the reuse shop is di­rectly do­nated to the re­gion’s lo­cal hos­pice which has part­nered with the en­ter­prise.

“The role of a so­cial en­ter­prise is to look and think ‘ is there a prob­lem here and if so, how do we turn it around to max­imise the so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal po­ten­tial’?” asks Eric.

Among those re­spond­ing to the lat­ter ques­tion are com­pa­nies like Lidl. It has an­nounced plans to phase out black plas­tic pack­ag­ing across its stores here.

Black plas­tic, Eric ex­plains, is hard to fil­ter out dur­ing the sep­a­ra­tion process at re­cy­cling plants.

That process re­lies on light tech­nol­ogy to dif­fer­en­ti­ate ma­te­ri­als and black ab­sorbs that light, ren­der­ing its func­tion fu­tile.

The su­per­mar­ket is also scrap- ping the sale of sin­gle-use plas­tic items. These in­clude drink­ing straws, dis­pos­able plates, cups and cut­lery, with plas­tic-stemmed cot­ton buds next on the list in the com­ing months. The sin­gle-use plas­tic items are be­ing re­placed with biodegrad­able al­ter­na­tives.

It’s lead­ing the way for oth­ers who have yet to fol­low.

But there’s still some way to go and Bryson Re­cy­cling has “a cou­ple of things cook­ing” to speed up that process. “The sim­ple real­ity is that waste im­pacts every­one and the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Our model en­sures good en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes by en­sur­ing that goods are re­cy­cled lo­cally, liveli­hoods are sup­ported and the econ­omy con­tin­ues to grow,” adds Eric.

“The fu­ture of re­cy­cling must fo­cus on the qual­ity of ma­te­rial col­lected and their lo­cal eco­nomic value. The im­pact of our model stretches be­yond North­ern Ire­land, with many ar­eas across the UK adopt­ing it. We are con­fi­dent re­cy­cling will be taken to the next level and Bryson will con­tinue to cham­pion and shape the lo­cal cir­cu­lar econ­omy model.”

The fu­ture of re­cy­cling must fo­cus on the qual­ity of ma­te­rial col­lected and their lo­cal eco­nomic value

Eric Ran­dall of Bryson Re­cy­cling at its re­cy­cling plant

Byson di­rec­tor Eric Ran­dall and (far left) at the firm’s re­cy­cling de­pot in Belfast

Footage from BBC’S Blue Planet, which high­lighted the dam­age plas­tic can do and (left) Eric with Bryson Char­i­ta­ble Group’s out­go­ing chief John Mc­mul­lan. Bryson Re­cy­cling is pledg­ing to stay at the fore­front of tack­ling waste. The en­ter­prise, which is mark­ing 25 years, has am­bi­tions to add £150m to the NI econ­omy

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