Tailoring waste to the householder

A waste collection company is going head to head with councils as it looks to offer a more flexible service for households. Maxine Perella reports.

From a young age Spencer Feldman realised that where there was muck, there was brass. As an eight year old, he used to help out the bin men on their rounds collecting rubbish and making some pocket money in the process.

Several decades later, having notched up many entrepreneurial successes along the way, Feldman has returned to his roots. His company Waste Concern offers an alternative to council-run residential collections – specifically for householders who can’t cope with fortnightly collections and are looking for a more frequent service.

The company was borne out of Feldman’s frustration with his local council who switched to fortnightly collections when he was newly married with a young baby and another on the way. “My council wouldn’t give me any extra bins – I ended up having to jump on my bin every Thursday night so it would be ready for the Friday morning collection. Nappies were exploding all over my legs, it wasn’t pretty to say the least.”

That topped off with hours spent queuing down the local tip to offload his excess rubbish and the scorching summer of 2007 – “we had thousands of maggots, it was horrific” – was the final straw. “I thought I can’t be the only person suffering with this. I came up with the brainchild of Waste Concern – a specialist residential council-style collection company.”

Waste Concern started operating in 2007 with two collections a month. It has expanded holistically and now undertakes over 500 collections a month, mainly across the south of England. All collections are sub-contracted to local waste contractors which are vetted to ensure they have the necessary infrastructure in place, such as MRFs and transfer stations, to extract as much value out of the rubbish as possible.

While Waste Concerns offers what Feldman calls a “one bin solution”, he very much sees waste as a resource. “By using just one bin, it doesn’t mean you are not recycling. It is co-mingled, but we want to be able to pull out the recyclables in a way that suits the residents rather than the councils. The one bin solution makes it simple as residents are confused by the sheer number and types of bins the council offers them.”

That said, householders who wish to take advantage of the service need to first hire or buy extra bins from Waste Concern as the company isn’t allowed to use council bins for its service. Feldman doesn’t see this as a problem. “People aren’t worried about having extra bins, it’s the utilisation of them and the space outside their house that is the problem. Many find that they can’t fit all their recyclables into the kerbside boxes, yet their wheelie bins are left half empty.”

The other issue is paying extra for a service that is already covered by council tax. Feldman acknowledges this, but says his company targets a niche audience. “We are not going to be for everybody. Most of our customers are young families with more than your average children, they can’t cope with the way the council are collecting. We also have wealthy clients that consume a lot and those that run businesses from their homes. And 95% of our customers are on fortnightly collections.”

By offering a more frequent and tailored waste collection service to those householders that require it, Waste Concern is now looking to expand its coverage further north and grow more aggressively to a point where it can command more influence in the market. “Our first objective is to become a big player in the residential collection market – that way we can reduce our costs and pass this onto the customer,” explains Feldman.

He is also hoping the company will be in a position within three to five years to consider acquisitions or joint ventures with other waste contractors. “There is a lot of money in recyclable materials from a reclamation point of view, and that’s where we want to be. Councils aren’t making the most out of the waste they are collecting … they aren’t offering the level of service and flexibility that we do.”

Maxine Perella

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