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2022, a really really busy year!!


Since my last Rob's ramblings, the year has gone by in a flash. All of our client's offices, factories and shops seem to be very buoyant meaning that the amount of waste and recycling is the highest it has ever been in our 21 years of business.

Our staff have done a fantastic job looking after all the super busy and demanding customers. We have a full complement of drivers and all the talk of the massive driver shortage has gone away. Thank goodness.

We have seen a huge increase in our direct costs this year. The amount that we have to pay per ton to get rid of our residual waste is up by 25%!!! Also the ban on red diesel for all our onsite machinery has added another big cost to us. We can now only use normal road type white diesel in our processing machines, shredders, forklifts etc. This has cost us as a business around £7000 per month alone. It is not an understatement to say that we have had our biggest year for increased costs. We have had to pass some of this on to our customers who I think are now used to the cost of almost everything going up.

At the time of writing, we are just beginning to see an easing of supply line shortages. We are now being offered trucks and machinery that had previously gone out to a 2 to 3 year wait. Also because the price of steel has gone down the price of skips and bins is coming down a bit from a massive high point this summer. We have six new trucks in the pipeline for delivery this year and next. We have a Dustcart on order for September 2023 and today I was told that if I don't sign the order today that we would miss our slot for the 2023 year, so not everything has eased up!! We just have to be more organised and order further in advance.

2022 is the year that the straw broke the camel's back with regards to unskilled labour. We really struggle to get pickers to pick waste from our recycling line. First we paid much more money, but the staff were late, slow and just didn’t want to be here. I even had a mutiny one break time where a spokesperson for the pickers demanded an extra £2 per hour for staff, or they would go home. This wasn’t great timing as our 5 new TOMRA autosort, 2.8m wide, optical sorters had just arrived in their dark blue and orange splendour. 

We had to get these installed fast, which we set about doing and myself and a team of 3 hard-working and highly skilled fabricators got them in position and working in 3 weeks. One thing we didn’t take into account was the amount it costs a recycling business to effectively shut the doors for this time. When you have to send material to other locations you have to pay the gate fee and you lose the revenue for the materials. So time was of the essence. 

These are now automatically sorting film, plastics, paper, card, wood, rigid plastics and we have a new magnet on ferrous metals. We only have one "picker" and one operator mainly checking the fully automated process. This has really improved our recycling rates, reduced labour costs, and reduced the amount of residual waste that we create. 

Speaking of new machinery, this year was my first visit to the IFAAT waste and recycling show in Munich. I would like to say a massive thank you to the RHA (Road Haulage Association) waste group who organised this trip. The show was absolutely enormous with all of the very latest innovation and tech that our industry has to offer. After 35,000 steps that day I was pleased to sample the local brew! 

Materials prices have been strong all of 2022, up until the last month when a paper and card have plummeted from over £100 per ton to around £30 per ton. Lots of paper mills just cannot operate with the huge rise in energy prices. 

Iron has been up-and-down but it is remaining strong at the moment at £150 per ton. Our commodity basket price is £70 per ton per ton, which is about average. What I can’t work out is the price to get rid of wood is still high (£20-£40 per ton). If it is going to be burnt in a power station and energy created/sold, then surely we shouldn’t be paying to get rid of it. Maybe this winter, our waste wood will become a commodity, not a minus. This year will go down as a good one. There is lots of talk about a downturn ahead. At the moment we are investing in our business and making hay while the sun shines. If there are dark times ahead, we will roll with the punches as and when it happens. Brexit has gone away, the Covid chat has gone away. I hope we can get on with a positive 2022 and into 2023.