At a recent meeting of the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resources Group I met John Glover, Managing Director of Bywaters. Bywaters provide recycling and resource management services to businesses in London and the South East.
John and I struck up a conversation and the passion he has for his company and the industry it operates in really shone through. I happily accepted his invitation to visit the company’s new 250,000 tonne capacity materials recycling facility in Bow, East London. I was really keen to see what a new facility, utilising the very latest technology, could do, and more importantly, how that capability could positively influence attitudes towards recycling in the wider community.
Established to replace three units located in the Olympic Park development site, and which therefore needed to be moved, the new facility covers 187,000 square feet - making it the largest dry recyclables MRF in the capital. It takes in commingled and pre-sorted office and other commercial material. The treatment process is almost entirely automated and generates 15 different material streams for recycling by reprocessors both in the UK and overseas.
It’s all very impressive - robust technology, well maintained and reliable plant as well as excellent systems and processes to monitor performance. But while John was showing me around, what impressed me most was his personal relationship with his employees.
John’s passion for recycling has clearly rubbed off on his team. Everyone seemed to have a big smile on their face, was happy to talk about their role, and clearly understood how their individual contribution fitted in to the overall process. They also didn’t consider what they were doing to be ‘waste management’ at all. For them, it’s much more akin to a manufacturing process, where raw materials are converted to secondary products sold on to customers to be turned into goods.
Interestingly, Mick Davis, Recycling Director of Greenstar made the very same point in the article about their new Atlas MRF in the 9 April edition of MRW.
I couldn’t agree more. Fundamentally, what’s the difference between what happens at a MRF and what happens at a steel works? Nothing. A steelworks doesn’t produce ships, cars or washing machines – its customers do. And it’s the same with a MRF. But which is valued more by society? That’s what we have to work together to change. Because until the communities we all serve start seeing their unwanted material as resources instead of waste, we’re always going to be facing an uphill struggle. An empty Irn Bru can isn’t iron ore I know, but you get my point, I hope.
I’m really encouraged by the signs that the waste and recycling industry is going through a significant mindset change in terms of its own view of the role it plays, and the service it provides; because without that, you’ll never change wider opinion.
But there’s still a lot to do to dispel the remaining scepticism of some investors, win over the NIMBYs and tackle the many other issues that make developing much-needed new recycling infrastructure far harder than it needs to be.
So, let’s take a leaf out of John’s book and get out there to spread the passion that we all feel for our industry. Get that mindset change spreading further and faster and reap the rewards it will bring!