UNTHA UK’s Innovation Showcase

Chris-Oldfield-webCIWM Business Partner, UNTHA UK, recently hosted an event that helped reveal the challenges, frustrations and opportunities that lie ahead in waste and recycling. Its chairman, Chris Oldfield explains more about what it calls its “innovation showcase”…

Chris Oldfield leads the innovation showcase day


Readers of the CIWM Journal will have noticed that UNTHA UK, a CIWM Business Partner, hosted a new-format event at its North Yorkshire headquarters last month – an innovation showcase.

The over-arching focus of the invitation-only day was how to make more money in 2017. As long-standing commentators on the wealth within waste, the UNTHA UK team assembled a programme of high profile speakers, who each delivered seminars on their respective areas of expertise.

In the morning sessions, Simon Ellin (the UK Security Shredding Association) and Daren Wood (the British Security Industry Association) spoke about the challenges and opportunities that currently exist within the field of data destruction and confidential waste handling. I then hosted a series of security shredding demonstrations, before outlining how to devise compliant, yet cost-effective confidential waste destruction processes. Given the impending new General Data Protection Regulation that will come into force in 2018, this proved a very hot topic.

Whether we’re thinking about sensitive documentation, branded products or high security items such as uniforms, confidential waste handling is not an easy business. There isn’t just legislation to consider – there’s also the prospect of fines of up to €20m or four percent of global turnover; wider risks such as site fires and, when all other factors have been taken into account, the need to make money. These were just some of the subjects we therefore tackled in our forums and the quality of the speakers made for some really thought-provoking debate.

The afternoon sessions then switched to focus on metal recycling – an area of industry that has proven particularly challenging in recent times due to tough market conditions.

Keynote speakers Robert Fell (the British Metals Recycling Association) and the CIWM’s very own Ken Sherwood and Chris Murphy offered further insight into this landscape. There was evident acknowledgement of the ongoing difficulties surrounding depressed prices, waste crime and the perceived image of the sector. However, these forums were far from “doom and gloom”.

A number of innovations were discussed and championed, with advice shared between peers regarding how to make more money from metals in 2017. The theme was continued when UNTHA UK’s managing director Marcus Brew revealed a new “metal clean up” system devised by the shredding experts – a solution designed specifically to maximise recyclate recovery and revenue rates.

BMRA’s Robert Fell

An outsider might have presumed that an afternoon talking about metal recycling would have been quite disheartening. But it was far from it. We had some of the industry’s leading lights, in the same room, talking about the need for progress and sharing ideas for change. Metal recycling is certainly going to be a big area for us next year, not least because we’ve engineered a shredding solution with a payback period of only nine months.

It is perhaps unsurprising to hear that Brexit was referenced many times throughout the day. But, whilst delegates admitted that they would like more clarity over what will happen next, the mood was far from despondent.

Generally speaking, the mindset among our customers and peers is that, to stand still now, after so much hard work and progress, could be catastrophic, not just to our own businesses, but to the continued evolution of our industry on the whole. The consensus therefore seems to be – forge ahead and continue making investments, however large or small.

I think we’d all love for the Government to prioritise waste, recycling and energy more than they do. Most people in the room also agreed for the need for a longer-term action plan that goes beyond party politics. But, as a delegate quite rightly pointed out, no government truly wants to invest in future generations on their watch.

As we wait to see whether we adopt EU-like policies, EU-lite policies, or policies that don’t resemble the EU’s stance at all, we therefore hope that those in power will see sense.

Until then, we’re reassured by the level of innovative thinking that we saw at our showcase. I don’t think any of our guests are going to sit back and wait for the Government to carve what happens next.

UNTHA UK will roll out a programme of six further showcases next year. If you are interested in attending please call 0845 450 5388 or email katie.mallinson@untha.co.uk. The presentations from the event are also available for download on UNTHA UK’s resource page.

In the December issue of the CIWM journal, Marcus Brew expanded on the opportunities that exist within metal recycling. If you missed his article, CIWM members can catch up here. Non-members wishing for more information on how to access the article, and more like it, can email ben.wood@ciwm.co.uk


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