But there are niche opportunities in the way that services are offered too: new companies can innovate and tailor-make waste solutions for individual producers of waste. Think: how might you cater for a business’ particular waste needs? Are there materials that local councils do not take? Are perfectly retrievable items going from households to landfill because it is too difficult for people to do anything else with them? Service-centric waste and recycling firms need to focus on the hassle factor and exploit it.
Our case studies are service-led companies which think this way: AnyJunk.co.uk is a waste removal service which sends 70% of collected content away from landfill and Green Works collects, reuses and recycles quality second-hand office furniture.
Colin Crooks from Green Works believes service is key to small scale waste and recycling ventures: “The people who will survive in recycling are those who provide an excellent service. The material is not of any value to the person who’s sitting on a load of it: they just want it gone out of their premises.”
Colin is confident the market is ready for fresh waste and recycling startups, and says there are a lot of things that could be recycled better or recycled more. Equally there are a lot of things that are being recycled currently where there are opportunities to provide a higher level of service and win contracts: you could decide to start up a man-and-a-van enterprise tomorrow and do pretty well if your service was good; you could become a dealer in scrap metal (though really, now’s probably not the best time); or you could try something different, as Jason from AnyJunk.co.uk suggests. Think niche and you could be on to a winner: “Crockery, for example,” he suggests “I’m sure there’s quite a niche market for it. It could be used for road building if it was crushed up.”
It’s worth bearing in mind though, that even if you find a great recycling idea, recycling itself is not the main battle. Getting the material in the first place is a lot more difficult, Jason warns: “One of the big challenges of recycling is not the processing of the materials once you’ve got them. It’s trying to get the materials out of the waste you get from various organisations.”
You should also bear in mind when sourcing your clients: if you are making money at the producer end, they are also your suppliers. The service you offer at collection point should be at the top of your list.