Born in 1968, I came from a small town near York in North Yorkshire, England, Malton.
I always had a passion for efficiency making things easier, less time, less cost with a better outcome.
We were raised to look after what we had, not a lot was thrown away, drinking water was from the tap, coffee was instant, we got cashback on pop bottles. Groceries came in paper bags, and the only fast food was fish and chips, wrapped in used newspaper.
Back then we called it ‘frugal’, maybe that’s being replaced with the word ‘sustainable’, using only the resources we need. So I guess ‘sustainability’ has always been one of my core values. This carried over into my working life as a production controller nearly 30 years ago, measuring downtime and scrap produced, what we could measure we could improve. Overall, creating a leaner, more efficient, sustainable working environment.
This continued when I moved to Denmark in 1997 to manage a foodstuff manufacturing company (actually piglet feed, the Danes love pork!). My responsibilities were to reduce costs, increase output and create a more efficient hygienic, working environment.
Improvements were made to all aspects of the business, waste was never a priority because compared to all our other costs, it was negligible. However; it always bugged me as it seemed expensive for the service we received, throwing everything into waste bins, skips were messy either part full with loose waste when collected or overflowing. We paid a lot for fresh air to be collected by large expensive wagons.
I wanted to be confident we could walk a customer from the front to the back of the business and be proud, nothing was hidden, and waste was to be on display as a commodity. I also liked everything to be measured, this included what we threw away, packaging is not free and we worked with suppliers to ensure if goods had packaging it was minimal or recyclable.
The solution, first we spoke to our local waste contractor, it turned out landfill tax was nearly $200 / tonne, he advised we needed to separate all our waste, either bag it separately or bale it. In came the balers for cardboard and plastics. All other waste, including foodstuff, was bagged in colour-coded bags and re-used or recycled, the small amount of general waste we had left was put into a bag compactor and collected once a week minimising collection frequency. We had reduced our waste costs by 90%, we re-used or recycled 90% of our waste, we also inadvertently won a green award, to achieve that in Denmark is not easy.
In 1999, I was asked by the Danish manufacturer Mil-tek to set up a business in the U.K., creating solutions for companies to do similar to what I had achieved in Denmark.
However, back then recycling, environment and sustainable were words only used by ‘hippies and greenies’, nearly all U.K. waste went to landfill. I remember returning to my home town Malton, I went for a drink to the local pub on the Friday night and an old friend asked ‘how come I was back in the U.K. Jon ?’. I told him about this great equipment we had to help companies separate waste and recycle, he said ‘I can’t see that catching on.’
Luckily it did, and 3 years later in 2002 I sent some brochures with my mum to New Zealand, my sister Bev had moved there 10 years earlier and I had not seen her since, I thought this could be an excellent excuse to see family and spend time in a country I had always wanted to visit.
My sister and her husband, who lived in Devonport, loved the idea, and in 2003 I incorporated Mil-tek NZ. Many companies were using skips and cages for cardboard and plastic and rarely were rebates made. Separating and baling these materials added value and customers had neat piles of compacted cardboard and plastic that allowed them to negotiate best returns. Our aim was to always minimise what went into the general waste bin, and what was left could be compacted to reduce skip collections.
Every year I would spend more time in N.Z, loving my work but also loving the country more and more.
Recognising that some customers needed more than just baling equipment to create a more efficient waste solution, I started Agecko UK Ltd. The aim for Agecko was to create the most efficient sustainable way for a company to manage waste. Focus was always on reducing costs, to do this we introduced new innovation rather than just using bins and skips. We worked with suppliers who were experts with specific waste streams, everything from plastic specialists to maximise revenues, cardboard processing mills, to anaerobic digestion. We created the bag, bale and backhaul solution for national companies, centralising waste at D.C.’s, re-baling and maximising revenues.
Easi Recycling in the U.K., Easi New Zealand and Easi Australia, started in 2013, focusing on recycling equipment and innovation to create more sustainable waste solutions. Having worked with manufacturers throughout Europe, we are now fortunate to be working with two of the leading companies in environmental technology, PAXXO the inventors of the amazing Longopac continuous bagging system, saving 70% on plastic waste bags. And Orwak, manufacturing compaction equipment for 50 years and produced over 100,000 machines.
From installing large fully automatic horizontal waste balers and 20-tonne compactors, one thing I have realised is that if the waste is not separated correctly at source, it is near impossible or very expensive to do later.
More recently we have started a ‘Boat Recycling’ company on the south coast of England, boats are dismantled, all parts re-used when possible and the fibreglass is cut into strips, baled and sent to our processing plant, our aim is for 80%+ of the boat to be re-used or recycled, we are the first company in the UK to offer this service.
Our solutions in the last 20 years have diverted millions of tonnes away from landfill, my quest is to continue offering fantastic innovation that when implemented will create a leaner more efficient sustainable working environment to be proud of.
Maximising material revenues and reducing waste costs, what waste company gives you that advice?
On a personal level I have a huge fondness and respect for our oceans. I’m a keen sailor, recently sailing the Southern Ocean from Cape Town to Fremantle a humbling experience that makes you fully respect mother nature. I also love diving, mainly freediving. The waters around NZ are some of the most beautiful in the world, full of life, compare this to many other parts of the world which are full of plastics and lifeless. I hope to be spending my future years in NZ and continue my quest for sustainability in the beautiful un-spoilt corner of the world, with my new son Charlie.