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How a solid fuel business turned itself into a recycling champion

J&B Recycling

A time to pivot

When the power stations of Yorkshire were privatised in the mid-nineties, Vikki Jackson-Smith’s family-run solid fuel business saw a decline in demand, as the stations started to import their own coal.

Combined with the drop in domestic demand for solid fuels, the company was facing a serious challenge. Spotting an opportunity in new government-legislated recycling targets, Vikki pivoted the business to recycling, starting with glass bottle collections.

Each year the company recycles 12,000 tonnes of plastic bottles, 21,000 tonnes of glass bottles and 36,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard.

Recycling talent

After an introduction by BGF, the firm appointed Ross Smith, ex-chief executive of MDC Technology, as non-executive chairman.

BGF Talent Network  

From cardboard to tin cans

“We needed to find a new direction that would use our current infrastructure and skills of the workforce,” she explains. “Due to the new landfill tax, escalator companies’ waste disposal costs were increasing, so we started offering a solution to reduce the charges they were facing by collecting their glass. This later put us in a strong position to offer a service to local authorities too and help them meet household recycling targets.”

The company rebranded as J&B Recycling and soon moved on from bottles to a full suite of recycling capabilities. The firm invested in an automated sorting plant to process the mixed recycling from kerbside bins, everything from cardboard to tin cans.

With a focus on producing good quality waste materials, J&B became one of only a handful of recycling plants in the country to meet the high standards needed to export the materials to China for reprocessing.

BGF's investment helped the firm to...

Invest in state-of-the-art automated sorting machines.

Acquire a third recycling site.

Expand the business by 200 per cent.

Capital-intensive industry

In 2014, the company was operating two recycling facilities and a waste transfer station. Vikki saw an opportunity to expand the business by increasing capacity and improving efficiency. She met with BGF to discuss funding.

“It’s a capital-intensive industry and to maintain our high-quality waste materials, we needed to invest in state-of-the-art automated sorting machines,” explains Vikki. “BGF’s investment helped us with that, and to buy a third recycling site.”

On top of the £7.5 million investment, J&B Recycling has been able to tap into BGF’s wider network for advice and expertise as the company has continued to scale.

“They’ve been excellent for us. We’ve got a great addition to our board, providing helpful guidance and in addition to that, great access to other CEOs, directors and finance directors to discuss any issues with. The key success factor is the business has grown by over 200 per cent since the investment.”

We selected BGF because of its patient investment strategy. They’re in it for the long term, not some two or three-year investment cycle.

 

Vikki Jackson-Smith, managing director of J&B Recycling

£7.5m

Invested by BGF.

The ‘Blue Planet’ effect

Vikki is planning for future growth, safe in the knowledge that she will not have to change investor.

“We selected BGF because of its patient investment strategy. They’re in it for the long term, not some two or three-year investment cycle.”

J&B Recycling is now actively looking at a number of acquisitions as well as planning for further development of the current sites, thanks to an increase in demand for recycling.

“People have always been aware of recycling but programmes such as Blue Planet have really brought plastic waste to their attention. The market is certainly there, as long as we maintain our focus on quality.”

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