Redundancy was the catalyst for a businesswoman to open a recycling plant in her home town of Manchester. Maxine Brown launched MB Recycling in 2013 from her spare bedroom and, four years later, it is turning over £600,000. She plans to expand current recycling services during the next three years.
“In the early days of the business, I quickly discovered the same message was going around: either send the waste to landfill or export it to China. Both of these options seemed to go against the grain, environmentally,” she says. “I had always thought about setting up a recycling plant to encourage firms to keep everything in the UK instead of exporting, which has the bonus of reducing our carbon footprint.”
MB’s 6,500sq ft plant in Rochdale, Manchester, has the capacity to recycle 300 tonnes a month of plastics or up to 4,000 tonnes annually. Brown now has three staff, including one apprentice, with plans for further recruitment as the plant expands. But her success in a challenging industry stems from the difficult circumstances of being made redundant.
“After university, I worked in sales for a wine company for 10 years before deciding I wanted a change in career. I was considering going into teaching when I received a phone call from a recruiter about a role as a purchase manager in recycling. They really sold the recycling sector to me, saying it was a growing industry and it was an exciting time to be involved.
“Of course I had no experience in the industry at this point so, throughout the interview, I was definitely outside my comfort zone. When I was called for the second interview, I was a little hesitant to go because I wasn’t sure it was for me. But then I got the job and quickly became fascinated by recycling, which soon became a passion of mine.
“I worked for that company for four years before I was made redundant. By that point I knew I wanted to continue working in the industry, so redundancy was the perfect catalyst and the push I needed to set up on my own with the contacts I had built up over the years. I realised all I needed was a laptop and my car, so I worked from home for those initial four years, acting as a broker in buying and selling.”
Brown says the message ‘send to landfill or to China’ is problematic now that China has clamped down on the imports of waste plastic, so she is seeing more materials going to landfill.
“I knew there was another solution for these materials that was both more cost-effective and more environmentally friendly. I had always built the idea of my own plant into my future plans. I knew it was the direction I wanted to go in, but the timing had to be right. In early 2017, I realised it was the right time to move forward with launching the plant.”
The investment for Brown’s new venture was sourced through Access to Finance, an EU-funded body which offers free advice in the north-west, along with PMD Business Finance.
“The first step was finding a suitable site because I wanted one locally to me in Manchester. Access to Finance helped me to identify units, and I went to look at a couple before finding the one we’re in now, which is the ideal size and in a good location. We picked up the keys for the site in March and it was all quite daunting at first.
“Financing the equipment and machinery was one of the most important parts of launching the recycling plant and, at that point, it all started to feel very real. I was taking the business to the next level, which was both exciting and, of course, a little scary. I was surprised how quickly the finance came through – it was a really easy and smooth process.
“The next step was to ensure everything such as health and safety was in place, as well as finding the staff. We now have three people but will be looking to take on more as we expand.”
Brown’s plans for expansion include introducing cardboard recycling, moving on to textiles and paper in future years.
“At the moment we are purely a plastics recycler, so expanding into different materials is a key part of our three-year plan. We will also be looking at investing in more equipment because we would like to install another shredder and granulator,” she says.
“The more word spreads, the more companies are starting to realise that huge savings [in dealing with waste] can be made easily. But it isn’t just the cost implications – it’s better for the UK to keep resources here. I’ve definitely seen a change in the perceptions of recycling over the years – word is certainly spreading.”