You would expect a company whose business is based on recycling to know the value of regeneration. For AWS Eco Plastics, one of the largest and most technologically advanced plastics recycling companies in the UK, they can appreciate this more than most. In 2009, their bottle sorting facility in Hemswell, North Lincolnshire, was hit by a major fire. At its peak the fire could be seen over 60 miles away, with over 20 fire engines in attendance, and struck just a day after a major contract was finalised.
“It was a significant set-back,” said MD Jonathan Short, “but also an incredible opportunity to rebuild the facility without any of the previous compromises.” When you consider the flames were not completely extinguished until demolition began two months after that fateful August day, it is incredible to think that just over a year on, the business is transformed. “We were already working towards combining the existing plastics recycling process with the requirements of a food manufacturing facility, the fire just meant we had to re-prioritise and re-think our plans.”
And re-think they did, with the new building coming in at twice the size of the original, 100,000 square feet, providing a production capacity in excess of over 100,000 tonnes per annum, the equivalent of 2 billion two-litre bottles. Into the new facility came redesigned and rebuilt process lines which recycle the plastic resin from the soft drinks bottles (recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate or rPET for short), with virtually nothing left unsorted or wasted.
A relatively new packaging material, PET was first patented in the early 1970s and as an engineered resin, is more expensive than commodity resins. As a result, PET is usually is one of the more highly valued plastic recyclables. Custom bottles are also used for non-soft drink products such as salad dressing, fruit juices and milk, with other uses including oven trays, sheeting for cups and food trays and polyester carpeting. Recycling therefore not only makes environmental sense, but commercial sense too, with rPET use reducing the consumption of heavier steel and glass containers.
At AWS, the emphasis isn’t just on producing the highest quality recycled plastics. Their cleaner approach runs through every aspect of the business. Committed to producing zero waste for landfill and investing in the latest precision, multi-separation sorting and recycling technology, the business aims to make the most positive use of all the waste plastic they collect from their wide customer base.
From an operations point of view, general manager, Tony Hayes, was appointed to ensure the new-look business had the new systems in place to match the firm’s ambitions. With hygiene, training and safety experience, Tony, and project director Simon Faulkner, were the ideal candidates to oversee the arrival of a new fleet of Doosan D30S-5 forklifts, supplied by Doosan national partner, Windsor Materials Handling. The 3.0 tonnes capacity forklifts are a crucial link in the chain from raw materials to finished product. Complete with clamp attachments, they take the pressed blocks of bottles from the new extensive warehouse to the sorting lines, as well as general loading and offloading duties. “We were keen to make sure we had reliable equipment that could cope with the tough demands of our business,” said Tony. “Dust and debris are obviously an issue in this type of environment, and we looked for the kit that would be able to stand up to the job.”
Doosan’s Pro-5 range is well known for a host of excellent features, including integral sideshift, operator sensing system and reversing handle with horn; however it is extensive air filtration, engine cooling and the signature feature – oil cooled disc brakes – which make the trucks ideally suited for such applications. Backed up with support from Windsor Materials Handling, the AWS team are confident they’ve made an excellent choice. “We really are building for the future,” said Tony, “and we want a supplier that can work with us to ensure we don’t have to worry about the suitability or reliability of our equipment. We were impressed with the equipment and the support on offer from Windsor and feel we are now well placed to put our difficulties behind us and cementing our position as the UK’s leading plastic bottle recycler.” By placing greater emphasis on building long-term partnerships, Windsor looks to provide each customer with the expertise and experience you’d expect from a national player. However, local depots also offer direct lines to service managers, minimising response times and providing a focussed team with in-depth understanding of customer needs.
Windsor’s Paul Roper worked with Tony Hayes to identify the ideal specification. Said Paul: “We wanted to make sure the equipment could cope with the pressure of a tough application and a business that is really going places. The Doosans have a proven reputation and the sealed, oil immersed brakes together with the added cooling and air filtration make them the right trucks for the job.”
And with the trucks now in operation, and the past 18 months behind them, the future looks very bright indeed for AWS. MD Jonathan Short sees a revitalised business taking shape: “We have an excellent platform to further expand our high end processing capacity, and with the support of our workforce, investors and suppliers, ensure we put even more recycled material back into the UK supply chain. We are impressed with both the quality of the equipment and the support. It is a great time for our company and we’re looking forward to what are exciting times ahead with even more optimism and ambition.”