One of the district’s biggest employers is excited about its continued expansion in the recycling industry which has led to skilled jobs created in the design and engineering sector.
The impressive developments were seen by Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Caroline Johnson on Friday as she toured Mid UK Recycling’s 25-acre Barkston Heath site - in particular the new engineering and maintenance workshops and rapidly increasing plasterboard recycling processes.
Dr Johnson, who was led around by Managing Director Chris Mountain and Sales Manager Ruth Cullen, was impressed with the increased engineering jobs created, especially in light of the recent loss of such manufacturing roles with the closure of Great Plains’ farm machinery plant at Sleaford.
Having now been in business for 20 years, Mr Mountain said they have taken on some of those skilled workers to bolster their newly kitted-out workshops, enabling the company to design and fabricate all of its machinery on site, as well has having enough maintenance staff to keep up with repairs to equipment spread across sites at Barkston, Caythorpe, Sleaford, Colsterworth and Market Deeping.
They employ 430 people including 75 drivers across the company.
Nathan Dolby, who is in charge of the greatly expanded workshop, has a six-man team on the fabrication side, adding: “It has been a major, six-figure investment which will help streamline the building of new plant for the company.”
He said they are in the final stages of equipping the facility with a plasma cutting torch, steel folding and rolling presses, lathe and milling machines. The workshop has an overhead crame capable of shifting five tons.
Mr Dolby said: “Usually you have had to buy in parts from abroad but now we can make them ourselves.” An advantage there are so few companies requiring such machinery in the UK.
This is in addition to a new, dedicated parts storage area and offices upstairs that schedule all the jobs for the workshops, which are also heated by a waste-burning boiler.
Mr Dolby said: “We have our own design team and a lot of concepts get brought to the table. It is a fairly new industry so there is no set way of doing things.”
Mr Mountain said that recycling of plasterboard now makes up 15 per cent of the company’s business, taking in around 1,000 tons a week, mainly from the construction and demolition trade coming via council waste sites from the south and east of the country as gypsum cannot go to landfill. Coming in on a daily basis the material needs to be separated from its paper lining as well as any other bags and bottles of rubbish thrown in. A fine mist is sprayed as it enters the sheds to suppress the dust and staff remain in the cabs of their loaders equipped with with hepa filters explained sales manager Ruth Cullen. An electrically powered excavator - literally plugged into the mains - loads the material onto a conveyor to start the filtering process. Eventually the gypsum is prepared and sold on to be used in the production of new plasterboard by two of the UK’s largest manufacturers or used as an additive in the cement making process, as absorbant granules for grease and oil and as cat litter for major supermarkets.
Ruth said: “Tesco could be doing a refurbishment job on one of their stores and three weeks later that waste plasterboard could be on their shelves as cat litter. The process employs seven people and runs 24 hours a day.”
This is instead of expensively mining raw material and shipping it from Africa.
Ruth said manufacturers are now using their products instead of getting gypsum as a by-product from coal-fired power stations in their desulphurisation process. She said as these power plants are phased out the construction industry needs to find other sources. Mid Uk is the only approved company whose recycled gypsum products are pure enough to no longer be classed as waste.
Ruth said: “We are doing just over 50,000 tons a year and in the next 12 months that will rise to 75,000 tons a year due to demand.”
They also supply most of the surrounding cement kilns in the region as well as providing fuel from processed waste.
“We have a reputation in the industry for producing very high specificiation products and being innovative,” said Mr Mountain.
“People used to see us as just a waste processing business. But ihas evolved and we pride ourselves as being a producer of top quality products that can be used again.”