GBN Services has never stood still. When managing director Garry Hobson joined the skip hire and recycling company in 1995, it was a small haulage firm based in Leyton with a turnover of £600,000.
Today, the construction, commercial and household waste management specialist operates six recycling centres across London and the South East, employs 250 staff and last year had a turnover of £34 million.
GBN is privately owned and is part of RVL Holdings Plc, which also provides storage, warehousing and haulage services.
“Since I joined the company and through acquisition we have built it up to be one of the largest of its kind in London and Essex”, Mr Hobson tells letsrecycle.com.
After taking over NSM in Southgate in 2005, GBN acquired another nine businesses. Since then, the firm has been focusing on uniting its services under one brand – complete with its distinctive orange and black livery – and on investing heavily in vehicles and plant.
“When we made the acquisitions a lot of the businesses were struggling. We had to turn that around and invest in new infrastructure everywhere”, says Mr Hobson. “In total we have invested something like £30 million.”
Among GBN’s recent investments are its refuse-derived fuel (RDF) plants in Basildon and Uxbridge and nine Mercedes Arocs skip-loaders and dustcarts featuring the latest safety equipment and emissions reduction technology. These vehicles make up part of GBN’s 250-strong fleet.
As a former lorry driver himself, health and safety is very close to Mr Hobson’s heart and all of GBN’s vehicles are fitted with cameras and the company employs a dedicated driver trainer as well as a health and safety manager.
In line with the company strap-line of ‘maximum recycling through sustainable solutions’, GBN recycles around 92% of material it collects, and of the remainder 6% is turned into bales of RDF and exported to incinerators in Europe to produce energy. Just 2% is sent to landfill, with the ultimate aim of reducing this to zero.
GBN’s six depots – at Leyton, Harlow, Southend, Southgate, Uxbridge and Basildon – give it extensive coverage of North, East and West London and the surrounding areas, making it uniquely positioned to benefit form the capital’s construction boom as well as commercial and household waste markets.
“It’s the multi-depot and London coverage that make GBN different”, says Mr Hobson. “We provide a one stop shop for customers – whether they are working in East or West London we can cover it. We can also redirect loads from one depot to another if that is ever necessary.”
Discussing the challenges currently faced by the sector, Mr Hobson says that Brexit, and the reduced value of Sterling, has made it more expensive to export RDF to Europe.
“The [RDF] market is a bit tricky with Brexit at the moment but it is diverting waste from landfill which is what our customers want”, says Mr Hobson.
Mr Hobson is also a critic of the Tachograph Regulations and the Working Time Directive, which place restrictions on the hours that drivers can work and wants to see a more flexible approach.
He comments: “In my opinion the waste sector needs a different set of rules to other sectors. With all the traffic in London and the South East more time is spent getting to jobs.”
Despite such a busy few years, Mr Hobson says that GBN Services has no plans to sit still in 2017. The company is currently preparing to open its seventh recycling centre in Edmonton.
“Getting that up and running, including planning, is our focus this year”, Mr Hobson explains.
And, looking to the future, the company has set its sights on an even bigger prize: “We would like to find a depot in South London – that is where we are lacking. One more depot in a strategic location and we would be happy.”