Rich List reveals wealthiest in recycling

28 April 2008

High-profile figures from throughout the waste and recycling sector have again featured in the Sunday Times Rich list of the 1,000 wealthiest people in Britain and Ireland.

Published yesterday, the 2008 survey includes figures ranging from the founder of waste firms Biffa and Grundon to figures who have made their fortunes in metal recycling.

Rich List RankNameWealthActivities
12Sean Quinn and Family£3.73bnGlass recycling, cement
(property, banking)
96Phillip Sheppard and Family £780mMetal recycling
131Michael Cornish and Family£637mWaste containers, plastics
recycling (packaging, plastic
224Sir Michael Smurfit and family£398mPackaging, paper recycling and property

Sir Martin Laing and family 

£175mConstruction, including recycling facilities
501Gary Widdowson£160mMetal recycling
759Richard Biffa£105mWaste management
879John Harry£90mMetal recycling
969Norman Grundon£80mWaste management

With the effect of the credit crunch taking its toll, many of the wealthiest have slipped a few places from last year (see story).

However, Phillip Sheppard and family - who heads Merseyside-based firm European Metal Recycling - rose from 118th place to number 96.

This is just four places, in the Sunday Times's listing, behind entrepreneur and TV personality, Sir Alan Sugar.

The analysis stated that EMR acquired six firms in the US in the last 18 months and that its profits rose from £56m to £104m on a £1.7 billion turnover in 2007.

The paper said that the company has been helped by tougher European environmental standards which have helped it to grow to an estimated £750 million.


The Rich List is based on the Sunday Times' estimates of the minimum wealth of Britain's 1,000 richest people or families.

The figures are compiled from "identifiable wealth, whether land, property, racehorses, art or significant shares in publicly quoted companies. Bank accounts and small shareholdings in private equity portfolio are excluded as they are not available to the public."

This year, Sean Quinn and family - who heads Ireland's Quinn group, which incorporates Quinn Glass - makes 12th place - and is the richest in Northern Ireland, with a wealth of £3,730 million.

In the money: recycling and waste management has helped to create a few of Britain's wealthiest peopleThe company has built a £120m plant at Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, offering a significant new outlet for recycled glass.

Among other figures included in the list is Michael Cornish and family, who retain a stake in the Lincolnshire packaging group Linpac after selling most of his shares in 2003 for £700m. The company is one of the UK's largest plastic recycling firms and is estimated to be worth £640 million.

Sir Michael Smurfit and family, who ran Dublin packaging and paper recycling firm Smurfit for 53 years, is also included at an estimated at £398 million.

Other high-risers include Sir Martin Laing and company - the last family chairman of London-based construction company John Laing, which is the preferred bidder alongside Viridor Waste Management for Manchester's multi-billion pound waste management contract. He is worth an estimated £175 million.


In the metal recycling sector, several players made the rich list, alongside Phillip Sheppard.

This includes Essex-based Gary Widdowson - who sold Metal & Waste Recycling in 2006 for a reputed £120 million, and is thought to be worth £160 million - and John Harry, who leads Merseyside firm S Norton, which is valued at £90 million.

In the waste management sector, Richard Biffa, who founded the recently acquired Biffa Waste Services, has retired from the board of Slough-based Shanks Group but still remains a shareholder, is valued at £105 million.

And, Norman Grundon, who owns Slough-based waste firm Grundon Waste Management,  has an estimated £80 million, down from £110million quoted last year.