Posted on Thursday 23 September 2010 byUlster Business
Conor Guy and some of his team
The highly competitive recycling sector is not an easy one to break into.
There are a number of hurdles – not least the initial capital outlay required to purchase specialist machinery and the problem of attracting customers from established players.
But that did not stop entrepreneur Conor Guy from starting Envirogreen Recycling in Coalisland, Co Tyrone a little over a year ago.
The firm handles a wide range of recyclable materials, buying baled cardboard, plastic, metal and glass and has managed to win a number of high profile customers in Northern Ireland and the Republic, including Quinn Group, Coca-Cola and Dale Farm.
Envirogreen was born out of Conor’s decision to ditch plans to become a solicitor after completing his law degree.
“I decided the market was very saturated, that there were too many solicitors and barristers. I decided to do a Masters in human resource management that led me to a placement at an HR consultancy firm,” he explains.
“As part of the role I recruited on behalf of a number of recycling and waste management companies in Dublin. I was meeting operations managers in the companies and realised they were not being run very well. In some companies the service was awful, they didn’t deliver on their promises, and they were a let down for customers. I just thought to myself, I could do a lot better job than that.”
After a spell working for an environmental services company in Australia – where he says he gained insight into how a company should be run – he got a small loan from his family, bought some balers and started to build up his customer base with a company ethos based around reliable customer service.
Like many businesses starting up in the recession banks refused to finance Envirogreen. They liked the business plan but wanted a large baler in place before providing funding. Thankfully, Conor managed to negotiate with a manufacturer to get a baler on lease purchase.
“When you are a small company just starting out in a tough economic climate the banks are really unhelpful. Thankfully we were able to negotiate a good deal with a local baler manufacturer on our terms,” he says.
“We’re just reinvesting all the money back into the business at the moment. It is all going into machinery, equipment and technology to boost our service for the client.”
In 2009 there was a collapse in demand for recycled materials and prices fell, but having negotiated good deals with reliable customers in England and further afield, Conor says this is not a concern.
“If that happened again it wouldn’t really affect us because our reprocessors have contracts with people like Tesco to make plastic bags. They’ll always deal with us because we have proven to be reliable.”
Envirogreen now employs 22 people only 12 months after starting up and hopes to make its own premises carbon neutral by next year. It also recently launched a new website - envirogreenrecycling.com - to help businesses discover how much energy they can save if they recycle properly by checking carbon dioxide levels.
Chief among its other new projects is a polystyrene recycling service.
“There’s no other company currently providing that at the moment,” says Conor, adding that he is in talks with several councils about the service.
“Nobody else is offering it in Northern Ireland, and it is very limited in the Republic too. Polystyrene is usually landfilled. We can bring the material back to our facility, recover it and make new CD cases, hangers and all sorts of things out of it. Customers are delighted because they are already under pressure from EU targets.”
Conor expects the company to continue to grow and has big plans to enter new parts of the market.
“We’re looking at the larger contracts. We are a commercial-based company at the moment but we’re looking into the residential collections as well. We’re also looking at waste energy and even the processing of recyclable materials on site, whereby in a number of years we’ll be able to melt plastics and make new products out of it,” he says.
“All of it requires substantial investment and we’re just trying to decide on the best way to take the company forward.”