Treading the middle ground
Waste brokerage can provide a valuable link in the waste management chain, bringing together producers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Jason Rayfield spoke to Roger Withinshaw and Tim Garrett of Outsource Site Services about playing their part in the burgeoning business of waste disposal.For a growing number of waste producers, the issue of cost-effective and environmentally friendly waste disposal has moved several places up the agenda, thanks to a new found emphasis on the problem of waste for UK industry. Consider, as well, the future direction of Landfill Tax, and the waste landscape looks set to change dramatically over the next few years. Landfill is no longer acceptable, and many companies are finding themselves with their own waste management headache and little idea of where to look for a suitable cure.
Since the company was formed in 1997, Outsource Site Services has focused on National waste disposal services primarily for the shopfitting and construction industries, although it has clients in other areas, including manufacturing. It provides a one-stop-shop service for all its clients' waste disposal needs, with services ranging from waste removal from individual sites around the country, to looking at contaminated land remediation.
In the UK, the scope for waste brokerage is very large, with waste brokers providing a link between waste producers and waste disposers or recyclers. Whilst a large number of waste disposal companies offer a form of waste brokerage as part of their daily function, there are a number of waste brokerages in the UK, who specialize in operating nationally. The market for this type of service is growing because of the way that Landfill Tax and environmental legislation in general is going.
As a waste brokerage, Outsource acts as a middleman between the waste producer and the supplier of waste management solutions, a service which offers a range of benefits, as founder and managing director of Outsource, Roger Withinshaw, explains:
"What we do is allow our clients to focus on their core business. Through our network of approved suppliers we can offer a service anywhere in the UK, without clients having to research local waste disposal companies and set up multiple accounts for one-off jobs", he states. "Outsourcing itself is very much a key phrase these days and people realise the benefits of outsourcing their non-core business activities to other companies, which frees up time to allow our clients to concentrate on running their business."Purchasing department
While waste disposal and waste management is Outsource's core business, it also provides other services such as plant and tool hire, and aggregate supply, and is moving towards being able to provide or source anything for a customer. "Effectively, we become an external purchasing department for our client," states Withinshaw. "Our staff here at Outsource are on the phone sourcing things for customers, so we in effect become an extension of our clients' buying department. What we do is use our knowledge and experience to ensure the customer gets the best price and, more importantly, the best service."
Business development manager, Tim Garrett, joined the company in September 2001, to help it through its latest phase of growth. Outsource can be of particular benefit to a client with multiple sites across the UK, as Garrett explains: "If a customer has a job in Bristol, he would typically go on a site visit and probably spend some time trying to obtain the numbers of skip hire companies operating in that area. Once he returned to his office he would then have the hassle of setting up and managing that account with no idea at all of the quality of service he might receive", Garrett says. "Whereas one call to Outsource and we will be able to source whatever the customer needs, saving a lot of time, and offering a level of reassurance to the customer."
Outsource saves the customer money because of its contacts within the waste management industry, and the sheer volume of work it puts through, ensuring that cost savings are passed on to its customers. Reassurance is achieved because Outsource either knows the waste management company it uses through previous contracts or it uses its network of suppliers to find a reputable waste solution for its client.
Customers are able to take advantage of Outsource's buying power. The company, as a broker, is able to amalgamate its customers' individual purchases to offer considerable cost savings, especially to smaller companies who would not be able to enjoy such bulk-buying discounts if acting alone.
A key strength of the Outsource service is the company's ability to advise the client on waste segregation at source. "Segregation enables the client to manage the waste better," states Withinshaw. "It also reduces the need for waste segregation later on, at the waste transfer station.
"The majority of companies prefer waste management at source because it can then go to the most appropriate disposal sites or even better, be reused," adds Withinshaw. "The majority of our suppliers are investing heavily in segregation equipment and installing complete Materials Recycling Facilities, a trend which owes a lot to the increasing Landfill Tax."
Because of the very nature of its business, Outsource Site Services is experiencing first hand the possibilities offered by recycling, as outlined by Roger Withinshaw: "These days, there are very few products that cannot be recycled, so no matter what your by-products are, it is usually possible to find a market for recycling. If any company has a substantial amount of any waste which at the moment is going to landfill via the local contractor, then we can offer advice as to how best to proceed.
"A good example is where we helped a client to clear out a manufacturing unit full of old plastic toilet seats. Clearing out the site, the client was asked to dispose of the seats, so we took some samples of the plastic and found that they could be recycled. The plastic waste was subsequently used as shotblast in aircraft manufacture, which saved £15 per tonne of plastic going to landfill, and the client, rather than having to pay for disposal, recouped £80 per tonne on the value of the plastic."
According to Withinshaw, this illustrates the viability of recycling both for the client and the environment. The difficulty comes when waste is all mixed, which also shows how waste management is about segregation, and supplying the markets that put those materials back into the correct waste streams.
Tim Garrett offers another example: "A client who had a large number of waste oil drums on site that had accumulated over time, these weren't bunded and were therefore illegally stored. The client was expecting to spend money to solve the problem, however we sourced a supplier who, because waste oil does have a minimal value, would go in and take all the drums off their hands free of charge. What the customer had believed to be a big, expensive problem was solved for free in a couple of days."Partnering solutions
The service offered by Outsource, according to Tim Garrett, amounts to a partnering network, as he explains: "If one of our customers has spare capacity in their manufacturing facility, and another finds they have too little, then in our capacity as a broker we will introduce the two with the aim of working out a mutually beneficial solution."
Roger Withinshaw adds: "We effectively allow businesses to tap into our network, which is created by clients' needs anyway. What we have is a group of suppliers and clients who all need their specific requirements met. We act as the middleman in helping our business partners to meet those needs whilst ensuring that the client is acting in an environmentally friendly way by using approved suppliers." Outsource has an approved and vetted network supplier base so the client knows their waste is going to be handled properly, which is an important factor in maintaining a clean reputation as far as the environment is concerned, as Withinshaw illustrates: "Under the duty of care, the waste producer is responsible for its waste, and we as a broker need to ensure that the Duty of Care requirements will not be breached, for example, through illegal fly-tipping. By using us, the client knows its waste will disposed of in a legal and environmentally responsible way."
From the number and variety of customers it deals with, Outsource has also seen a shift in attitudes towards the environment, says Garrett: "In general, companies want to look after the environment and ensure it is there for future generations. Like anything, it is about selling the benefits, the environmental benefit you cannot easily see but know about, the tangible cost benefits if segregation is done at source, and the obvious benefit of knowing you are an environmentally responsible company.
"For a company to become environmentally responsible, the message has got to come from the top and filter down. To be environmentally friendly comes at a cost, unfortunately waste segregation doesn't come for free. The money generated from effective recycling can be quite minimal, so we try to identify if a customer is going to have a lot of a certain type of waste in order to try to encourage them to keep that waste separate, and therefore maximise their returns."
A crucial part of any company's environmental policy is ensuring compliance with the various regulatory and legal requirements which exist. This is another facet of Outsource's business, and one which is becoming increasingly important. "We are extending our service a lot more in terms of legal advice and keeping abreast of legislation, waste auditing and waste management. A total waste solution from beginning to end is becoming increasingly important. Customers are wanting, and starting to demand it, driven by the ever-increasing burden of legislation and increasing environmental awareness."
Outsource also works with companies who are seeking ISO 14001 accreditation, and is working towards its own attainment of the standard, which it hopes to achieve within the next year.Online presence
Looking to the future, Outsource Site Services is working on increasing its online presence. Visitors to www.out-source.biz will be able to access a wealth of information about the company and its capabilities. Also, existing customers will be able to manage their account online and keep track of their waste management information in a way that makes it easier to analyse, Withinshaw says: "We will allow existing and potential clients the facility for the online transaction so they will be able to look at their waste streams and waste audits themselves and see how much they are producing per year, which is essential for those companies seeking ISO 14001.
"If you can provide data over a long period of time and assimilate it into a different scenario then customers will be able to see the benefits of being environmentally friendly. What we try to do is provide that central hub of information which clients and suppliers can tap into to get the best resources available. This networking is important because the future of the company is geared towards working in partnership with both its suppliers and clients through its policy of continual improvement and use of the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) business model. Outsource is also the first and only waste broker to achieve the Investors in People accreditation."
As its influence grows, so does the company's capabilities. Because it is a broker, Outsource has been able to advise on a complete land remediation and cleaning project for a building development where the land was contaminated with an acid that was used for treating corn. Another key capability is the ability to assist clients with new and far-reaching legislation, like the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. Roger Withinshaw sums up:
"There are no limits because we are not actually disposing of or recycling the waste ourselves, we are sourcing a supplier who can manage that waste. The actual nature of the waste doesn't matter, what does is that as a broker we can provide that vital link that so many companies need when looking to manage their waste."