Glass recycling giant URM, which includes the Berryman brand, has opened new sorting facilities at Tilbury. Beth Slow talked to Mark Wilson, chief executive of URM UK about the company’s investment and future vision.
Mark Wilson, chief executive of URM UK, believes that focusing on quality and supply chain partnering is the way forward for the glass industry. And he considers the company is in a strong position after a £20 million investment in building a glass recycling plant in Tilbury.
For 90 years Berryman – the main brand name within the URM business – has been buying and recycling several types of glass, including containers and flat glass.
The company was acquired by Australian business United Resource Management in 2006 and while it has since been going through a gradual rebranding to URM, the Berryman brand still has wide recognition in the local authority and commercial sector.
The Australian parent business describes itself as “one of Australia’s largest privately owned resource recovery and recycling companies” and adds that it is a “global leader” in designing and constructing glass recycling plants.
URM’s new Tilbury plant in Essex – which has been operational for around six months – adds to the company’s portfolio of sites in Doncaster, Knottingley and South Kirkby.
However, the Tilbury investment is especially designed to take the growing volume of glass sourced from materials recycling facilities (MRF) – as well as traditional glass collection routes.
Mr Wilson explains that the amount of glass coming out of MRFs has been increasing, alongside the move towards collecting more materials commingled.
“There is no homogenous method of recovering or collecting glass in the UK which means we’ve got to have the technology to recover glass from all types of different methods. Our focus is on glass recovery and this is not possible without investment and flexibility.”
He continues: “Over the last 15 years the whole industry has had to adapt and professionalise itself; moving away from just a traditional brokerage and merchant capability to one which is now heavy on investment, we are now real supply chain partners.”
Commenting on the facility’s ability to process the MRF material, Mr Wilson says: “The Tilbury plant was built to recognise the deterioration in infeed quality but also recognising the exacting requirement of the end customer in terms of specification and volume. The technology we’ve put in Tilbury will enable us to take the lowest quality infeed product from MRF’s together with separated bottle glass. We can mix that in whatever percentage is required to meet end customer specification.”
Behind the sorting work is the fact that contracts have been secured for the use of the cullet. He notes: “Everything we’ve done here is underpinned with long-term supply agreements with some of the key British glass manufacturers.”
In terms of the future of the glass industry, Mr Wilson states: “What we want to see is a real emphasis on keeping British glass in Britain, and ensuring it is presented for remelt rather than export or aggregate and therefore it’s a closed loop cycle that becomes a sustainable source of material and ensures that our manufacturing base is sustained well into the future.”
And, he is a supporter of those in the packaging waste sector who argue that the UK’s packaging waste recovery note (PRN) system should be targeted at the domestic market rather than overseas where investment may not have taken place.
He reasons: “The drive has to be in the UK if we want to make it sustainable in the long term, for the PRN system to reflect investment and support British glass manufacturing. Why should a PRN be awarded for the export of raw British glass, when there has been no investment in the process, and this glass is then not available to the British market?“ he added.
- A look inside URM's Tilbury glass facility
- Equipment inside the Tilbury facility
- Glass being sorted by colour
- Flint/clear glass at the end of the process
Another recent and important development for the company is the development of a freight rail link from the Port of Tilbury to the north west of England. This meant that URM was able to move its first load by train earlier this year.
“We need to be sustainable to ensure our longevity, each train is predicated to be able to move 1,540 tonnes at a time, which is the equivalent of every train load taking 54 lorries off the road,” explains Mr Wilson.
This is an example of why URM argues that it is leading the field in supply chain management.
The company’s message to the market place is clear, in that it is “thinking out of the box”. Mr Wilson declares. “If you are a progressive, forward thinking manufacturer focused on quality then we are the right partner for you.”