Waste firm puts recycling at the heart of the community

RECYCLING metal is becoming more lucrative as the cost of materials increases and its availability decreases, but often it makes the headlines for the wrong reasons. Family-run SWM has been in this business since 1959 and has been working closely with the police to help tackle metal theft. The company, which provides a comprehensive range of waste and recycling services, is preparing for the introduction of new laws in December which will outlaw cash for scrap. Robert Zarywacz visited the directors at SWM’s Roundswell depot to learn more about the business, the changes to the law and the company’s October ‘WEEE amnesty’ when it will accept many unwanted electrical articles for no charge.

Established by Raymond Penfold snr in South Molton, his son Raymond Penfold and nephew Shawn Akers are now directors alongside Sally Amos and Martin Mogford, with Shawn’s wife and son and Raymond’s grandson working in the group business, which has eight sites in Barnstaple, Bideford, Braunton, Crediton, Launceston, Plymouth and South Molton.

Operations Director Martin Mogford attributes much of the company’s success to doing things well and doing them right. This includes achieving ISO 9001, OSHA health and safety ISO 14001:2004 for its environmental management system and many other licences and accreditations.

“We are on a quest for quality,” said Martin. “Technology is huge in this industry and requires big investment.”

SWM invested some £1.6 million in specialist equipment and its vehicle fleet in 2011 and now achieves an annual turnover of some £21 million. As well as investing in plant, SWM is deeply committed to North Devon and its 75-strong workforce and has introduced NVQ training for many of its employees. It is working with Petroc to introduce more work experience and apprenticeships and earlier this year launched its SWM RE.WORK INITIATIVE to help people get into employment. This involves SWM working with social enterprise Pluss to support disabled people to start work and build a career by re-training, re-engaging them and re-introducing them to the workplace.

“It’s been a real success story. We have already taken four people into paid employment through the scheme.”

This approach to its position in the community includes its responsibilities in the scrap metal industry. Before the new legislation was passed, SWM was already working within police ‘Operation Tornado’ guidelines, which requires anyone selling scrap metal to participating dealers to provide photographic proof of identity. Its aim is to restrict the sale and movement of stolen metal and it has been designed not to inhibit those dealers that operate legitimate businesses, but to identify unscrupulous dealers who operate outside the law.

This participation has prepared SWM for new legislation that comes into force on December 3 to outlaw the sale of scrap metal for cash. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 sets out changes to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 which currently regulates the scrap metal industry. The changes are designed to eliminate the rewards that make metal theft a low-risk criminal enterprise for metal thieves and unscrupulous dealers.

New cashless trading legislation will outlaw cash payments for scrap metal and ensure that funds are transferred by a method that records both the seller’s and the purchaser’s details. Cash payments for scrap will continue until December 1.

“We embrace cash for scrap abolition,” said Shawn Akers. “We’re keen to be at the forefront of this. Everything will be traceable so it can be tracked and measured. Enhanced identification will be required for anyone wanting to sell scrap.”

SWM supports the new legislation not only because it will reduce metal theft but also to drive up standards in the waste and recycling industry. It is committed to environmental sustainability so that the entire community can meet the needs of the present without compromising the future.

One of its main priorities is to reduce the amount of waste deposited in landfill and it is actively working towards zero landfill deposits through improving the efficiency of its recycling operations and a policy of education and co-operation with its customers. It is already achieving 70% by using its own waste transfer station to pre-treat waste and remove recyclable material.

Its waste and recycling services cover asbestos, cardboard, chemical waste, confidential shredding, construction/demolition waste, domestic waste, electrical waste (WEEE), end-of-life vehicles, garden waste, liquid waste, plasterboard, plastics, scrap metals and tyres. It provides theses services to businesses of all sizes in North Devon and the South West.

As part of its commitment to inform and co-operate with customers, SWM is holding a WEEE amnesty at its Roundswell & South Molton depots from 8am to 1pm on October 20. The amnesty aims to encourage businesses and householders to dispose of their waste electrical and electronic equipment responsibly.

On this day only, people will be able to drop off many items free of charge. People can dispose of old toasters, kettles, computers and other devices, whether they are working or not.

“Almost anything that runs on batteries or has a plug will be accepted free of charge,” said Shawn Akers. “However, we’ll have to make a small, but reduced charge for fridges, freezers, televisions and computer monitors.

“It’s a great opportunity to recycle unwanted or end-of-life electrical goods and is good news for North Devon as it will ensure that electrical waste items are recycled, helping to reduce the impact on landfill and benefiting the local environment.”

As many items as possible will be handled free of charge, although a subsidised rate of £10 per fridge, freezer or TV and £3 per computer monitor will apply during the amnesty. Local business can take advantage of a subsidised collection service (£10 per location) and discounted consignment notes (at £35) leading up to/ during the WEEE Amnesty Day.

Shawn, Martin and their fellow directors are keen to pursue further initiatives to increase recycling throughout the community and are interested to see the response to the amnesty. It is preparing to launch a new waste collection service before the end of 2012 and is looking for innovative ways to ensure recycling and care for the environment is at the heart of the community.

For details of the new regulations covering the sale of scrap metal from December and SWM’s WEEE amnesty for electrical items, visit swmrecycling.co.uk