From recycler to retail specialist

DS Smith Recycling has strategically repositioned its commercial waste offering over the years to add bigger and better value to the retail sector. Maxine Perella reports

Waste management is a fast evolving market and so it stands to reason that those businesses that can adapt to change quickest will survive and prosper. Such is the case with one contractor, DS Smith Recycling, which now views itself increasingly as an outsourcer when it comes to serving the commercial and industrial (C&I) market.

While its primary business is in paper and cardboard – it claims to be the largest collector of recovered fibre in the UK – the core-grade rich markets it operates in, typically the retail sector, are changing and to so keep control of its tonnages, DS Smith has had to diversify over the years.

“There are very few waste streams now that are not governed by legislation,” explains Tim Price, the company’s national commercial manager. “Most companies don’t want individual contractors trying to manage every one of their waste streams so they see great value now in outsourcing that – to a single provider that can offer them a total waste management service.”

Price says his company would go so far as to call itself a “retail specialist”, capable of offering customers a range of services, from traditional cardboard collections through to an integrated waste management service including dry recyclables, organics, plastics, residuals, and confidential security shredding.

From the smallest owner-operator shop that may only be producing a couple of tonnes to national chains with tonnages that run into hundreds of thousands, DS Smith can handle any size of waste producer. On the C&I side, it serves 4,700 customers and 14,500 sites in total – operating 26,000 services on a weekly basis.

The company’s reach manages to be so wide because it works with around 350 waste management partners nationwide, from the big national contractors to smaller regional operators, making its collection infrastructure not only extensive, but flexible too.

“We have the largest infrastructure of recovered paper collections in the UK so in terms of the fibre element of what we do, we’re pretty exhaustive in where we can get our vehicles,” says Price.

“We’ve also diversified in the types of materials we can collect ourselves and put through our own facilities, such as plastics and mixed dry recyclables. What we haven’t invested in is any landfill sites or ‘dirty’ MRFs, we use partners to do that for us, but this means we can also take residual waste.”

DS Smith operates 15 recycling facilities itself, which help service its key national accounts. These offer a combined processing capacity of 800,000 tonnes per annum and double up as depots for the company’s collection vehicles, which range from box vans for small office collections through mobile compaction vehicles to the larger trucks that bring in materials in bulk.

In terms of growth in the C&I market, Price sees two key areas to target – the organics waste stream, which the company intends to capitalise on through acquisitions, and the “gap” in the SME sector.

He explains further: “There is still significant tonnage, running into the millions, finding it’s way into landfill through the SME stream. It’s getting the collection infrastructure right to enable those small businesses to get easier access to services like ours.”

He says that part of the problem lies with capturing the smaller tonnages from the SMEs and making that more cost-effective than sending to landfill. “The larger waste producers operate networked businesses, they have the ability to backhaul and bulk up before shifting onto the reprocessor – and that’s great for us because it takes out costly collections at site level.”

While cost remains the chief driver for waste producers to deal with their waste in a more sustainable manner, switched-on firms are now looking more closely at prevention and reduction – and that’s something Price says his company pushes as part of the added value they offer customers.

“We can’t ignore waste reduction. The further you push waste back up your supply chain, the more effective you’re going to be. Whether that’s in terms of being less waste into the supply chain or better managing that waste out of the supply chain, it all has a part to play.”

Looking ahead, the company has plans to replicate its model across Europe and Price says the recent corporate rebrand (DS Smith Recycling was formerly known as Severnside Recycling) to align itself closer with parent firm DS Smith Group will bring many benefits here. “DS Smith Group is a worldwide brand so this will help enormously with our plans for expanding into continental Europe.”

Price joined the company 12 years ago and has watched it evolve during that from a fibre recycler into a waste facilities management business. Its forward thinking approach will doubtless serve it well as the waste industry continues to mature and become more resourceful in its outlook.

Maxine Perella is editor of edieWaste

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