Thorntons Recycling in Dublin is just one such company. While the business handles 250,000 tonnes a year of municipal solid waste and commercial and domestic waste, it is also actively engaged in helping its clients adhere to the regulations regarding waste disposal, not least when it comes to construction and demolition waste.
According to Thorntons business development manager Damien Quinn, 30,000 tonnes of waste a year is recycled at their Dublin site using a ballistic separator. This processes newsprint, card and industrial wood waste. The wood is processed and double shredded and then shipped off to be used as woodchip and fuel.
Says Quinn: Ive been at Thornton's for 12 years. We have 70 vehicles, 150 employees and a 24-hour licence, so there is intense activity. This is the best equipped waste management business in the Dublin region.
The company also runs a civic amenity site in Dublin for the city council, for which it holds a five-year contract. And in county Meath, Thornton's has a waste transfer facility.
An indicator of how the conditions have changed for Irish waste management can be seen in the fact that in 1994, waste cost E4 (£2.80), while in 2004, that figure is now E160/170, with the landfill levy on top. Increasingly, Quinn says, customers dont have the time to manage all the planning and forecasting required, and want all the benchmarks and activities arranging. Theres been a lot of change. This is a family business started 25 years ago by a straight-up operating guy, with no smarty-pants advertising. In Ireland theres been the tradition of the hump and dump guy, but now there are service costs and requirements, so customers want visibility and want their budgets drawing up for the next year.
Weve had a compliance requirement since 2001, and weve reorganised to cater for that change. With a turnover of E32 million, 70% of our income goes on disposal charges, so weve tried to reduce that by sorting the material to divert it from such expensive processes, says Quinn.
Thornton's operates in a way that many businesses might not feel confident to do: We put the equipment in place and then we look for the contract. We have a real entrepreneurial spirit, he adds.
Quinn has also noticed a distinct difference in the way Irish and UK companies operate, having worked for a time in Liverpool: In the UK, some companies operate at a loss to fill holes in the ground. In Ireland there arent enough holes in the ground to fill.
The machinery used by Thornton's has been provided by Dutch company Synmet, which operates out of Macclesfield in the UK, and Enschede in the Netherlands. John Edwards is the construction and demolition waste specialist. We supplied a double drum air separator, which separates light from heavy waste, but separates them into three rather than two groups. He says this means that heavy fraction is removed, leaving wood and light waste such as paper.
Eighty percent of the air blown through the drum comes back into the fan, meaning that it has a lower running cost than other models. The remaining 20% is dust, which is filtered off.
According to Edwards, all the equipment is bespoke, depending on the input material, density and volume. Synmet has also patented the model.
The contract with Thorntons came about through Turmec/SRS in Ireland, partners with Synmet: We pretty much had the brief before they came to us, says Edwards.
The drum that Synmet produces originated in Holland, although the Dutch versions are lighter, as the waste they process is lighter, with less stone. The machines being produced for the UK and Ireland are strengthened versions.
Negotiations were rapid, as Edwards recalls: It took less than three months from procuremen