PKF Francis Clark client, Coastal Recycling is a real Westcountry success story. Headquartered in Exeter, Coastal is the outward facing brand of the Devon Waste Management Group which started life as part of Devon County Council until the change of legislation privatised waste management operations. It has since grown in to a privately owned SME recycling business serving some 2000 customers with over 200 employees at six Devon based sites and a turnover of around £23 million.
Other figures are equally impressive. Coastal handle over 100,000 tonnes of material every year from a mix of commercial and industrial, construction and demolition and local authority customers. The business contributes over £300,000 each year to community projects, including supporting beach clean-ups. They are Devon’s largest recyclers of green materials handling over 50,000 tonnes of green waste a year creating soil conditioners and compost for agricultural and horticultural reuse. They operate a fleet of over 50 specialist vehicles and they power over 4,000 homes in North Devon through energy generated from waste.
Coastal’s Business Development Director Richard Marsh sees the turning point of the businesses’ fortunes after it was acquired by the current board of directors some 5 years ago. He said: “The company is now a full service recycling and waste management business with the emphasis on recycling. It has moved away from the sole idea of ‘waste’. Waste exists but we look upon it as a resource. It’s a change of emphasis, we are about recovering resources. In terms of our positioning and our market opportunities, we are in a very good place.
L to R Dominic Treacher Operations Director, Emily Delve Finance Director , Richard Marsh Business Development Director , Steve Hadley Managing Director.
“There remain, however, significant challenges not the least of which is compliance. Meeting the legal requirements of the Environment Agency has required considerable investment including employing environmental scientists, agronomists and other science based experts who keep us on top of the latest European driven legislation.
“This gives us a market edge and an opportunity. A lot of the smaller businesses just can’t afford this kind of specialist resource and are failing. National competitors have got it but as an SME, we have a distinct USP.
“Quality has become the key driver to this sector and to our business. When I say quality, it’s not just quality of service but quality of operation and our end products. We have established a very good reputation and are attracting subcontract work from the nationals. In meeting their very strict operating standards, it speaks volumes of the quality we are able to demonstrate.
The issue of plastics disposal remains high in the public consciousness and Richard Marsh is sensitive to public perceptions and changing attitudes but is keen to demonstrate there are solutions.
“We like plastics. Plastics are one of the great inventions of the 20th century. Plastics, per se, are not a problem, it’s a matter of how you dispose of them. If it’s discarded in the sea, into rivers or left in the countryside, it’s a problem. If it’s managed properly, it can be recycled – all plastics are recyclable. The key is to get a quality plastic end product and to be able to manage it.
“Whilst the reduction of plastic in the market place makes an awful lot of sense, at the same time we need to be looking very carefully at how we recover plastic and then it wouldn’t be as big an issue as it is. Some people are taking plastics back to its original form – oil – and using it for fuel products. We are experts at collecting the different types of plastic, processing them and then finding markets for them.
“Both commercial and ethical drivers are in play here. There has been a political impetus due to the impact of David Attenborough’s brilliant Blue Planet which gave the issue a global audience. As we look for better ways of managing plastic, organisations could be more responsible in how they collect it before they pass it on to us for recycling then it wouldn’t be as big a problem as it is.”
People and businesses are already opting for non-plastic methods of packaging and more single-use plastics are in evidence. While this movement would appear to adversely impact on the waste management and recycling industry, Coastal’s response according to Richard Marsh, will be to find new ways of operating and offering new services to help facilitate more businesses use single use plastics.
“We are constantly looking for new markets for our products and new ways of managing the material. We’ll adapt as we always do but while we will always look to future proof the business, there remains an awful lot of plastic in the world and out there in circulation so the idea of the problem going away is not going to happen for some while yet.”
PKF Francis Clark Director, Neil Hitchings said:
“Coastal is a great regional success story who are growing because of a clear vision about their aims and objectives and how to achieve them. We are auditors to the group and provide taxation, corporate finance as well as ad hoc VAT Accounting solutions and other advice including supporting the business with their acquisitions.”
The future is bright for Coastal. Housebuilding is increasing, more businesses are becoming environmentally aware and attuned to what can be recycled and even improvements in weather conditions are producing bumper amounts of green materials to turn into compost.
Richard Marsh concluded:
“Our ability to sell around the world depends entirely on the market conditions but the quality of our end product is fundamental to our success. It must be of the highest possible quality and that is the key message that drives everything we do.”