Longstanding social enterprise South Molton Recycle Ltd has gone into administration today (June 29) after providing recycling services to Devon residents for 29 years.
The South Molton-based organisation, which has over 34 staff and claimed to have been one of the last social enterprises providing recycling services in England, revealed the news and notified staff this morning “with great sadness”.
The demise of South Molton Recycle (SMR) was partly attributed in a statement from the company to a large paper reprocessor, thought to be Aylesford Newsprint, entering administration earlier this year, and to a downturn in the commodities market.
In the statement, director Sarah Portsmouth said: “Over the last 6 months, we have had our long standing paper reprocessor go into administration, after 100 years of trading, owing the SMR a substantial amount of money. Since then material prices have dropped, in some cases more than halved, and this together with the large increases in insurance and rates suffered over the last three years, have resulted in South Molton Recycle Ltd being unable to withstand this massive assault on its cash flow and reserves.”
South Molton Recycle was founded by Steve Portsmouth in the 1980s and was an early pioneer of recycling, winning many awards.
More recently, the social enterprise was known for collecting recyclables via a source separate method from over 32,000 households in Torridge every week and from businesses throughout North Devon, Torridge and parts of Mid Devon. It also operated the civic amenity recycling centre in South Molton on behalf of Devon county council and had staff working at the Seven Brethen site in Barnstaple .
The not-for-profit social enterprise, which provided jobs for many disadvantaged members of the community, said that its directors had been “fighting” to save different elements of the business and as many jobs as possible.
It gave credit to SITA UK (now Suez Environment), which operates most of the civic amenity sites in Devon, for taking on some of its staff. It said: “The staff at SITA UK have been very supportive and are taking the staff subject to TUPE regulations from the civic amenity site at Seven Brethren, Barnstaple. This service will be unaffected by the change in management.”
It continued: “Devon county council have been equally supportive and we have worked with them to ensure everything that they need for the reopening of the South Molton civic amenity site in Station Road is in place. Although they will be temporarily closing the site whilst plans are finalised with other contractors, once this is agreed, we hope that the site will re-open in the near future without loss of jobs.”
The social enterprise added that business waste recycling company Coastal Recycling Services had agreed to take over its business waste and recycling arm of the company, which will continue operating as normal, including staff.
However, South Molton Recycle said it had achieved less success with regards to its contract with Torridge district council (TDC), which it said had resulted in 30 redundancies.
The social enterprise claimed that despite contract talks over the past month with council officers, the council had “rejected” any suggestions put forward over how to maintain the service, including SMR continuing to provide the service whilst negotiations take place to ensure a smooth handover and the council taking on the 30 staff associated with the contract.
But, a spokesman for Torridge district council refuted this and told letsrecycle.com that the suggestions put forward had been considered by the local authority and it was busy putting contingency plans in place. In the mean time, the council has announced the suspension of its recycling collection service.
In a statement, the council said: “Torridge district council regrets to announce that with immediate effect there will be no green box, green and brown bag recycling collections until further notice, following the news that South Molton Recycling has gone into administration. We request that Torridge residents do not put out any recycling for collection until further announcements.”
Commenting on the move, councillor James Morrish, deputy leader of Torridge district council, said: “This is very sad news that this local company providing local employment has gone into administration. We are doing our utmost to limit the inconvenience to our residents and to mitigate any additional costs to our council tax payers. We would ask our residents to please bear with us as we put contingency plans into action and, if at all possible, to deliver their recycling to one of the many recycling facilities within the area.”
The council stressed that its black bag and green waste service were not affected.
Paying homage to its history, South Molton Recycling said: “We are very proud of everything that SMR has achieved and the directors of South Molton Recycle Ltd would like to say a huge thank you to all our brilliant staff, supporters, volunteers, customers and suppliers past and present for their loyalty and commitment and especially South Molton Town council, the people of South Molton, North Devon and Torridge who have helped and encouraged us so much over the years.”
SMR stressed that its partner charity re-use shops, SMR Phoenix in South Molton, Barnstaple and Bideford, are unaffected and will continue to trade normally.
Story updated [June 29, 2.53pm]