27 November 2013

A Caring Approach to Waste Management - Grundon Case Study

Family-owned Birtley House is not just a Nursing Home. It is located in the heart of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, just a few miles from Guildford and is very proud of it’s long tradition of offering a home from home for those who need additional support as they get older.

Today, the business employs just over 100 staff to look after the 40 or so residents and maintain the exceptional grounds and gardens which provide a quality of environment which must be almost unique in the sector. Inevitably, it generates a considerable amount of waste – from infectious healthcare waste, sharps and out-of-date drugs to offensive waste such as dressings and incontinence pads; together with general waste, recycling and hazardous waste, including detergent bottles, disused electrical items, light bulbs and batteries.

Until summer 2012, Birtley House had worked with several different waste contractors but, as Tim Whalley, Properties Director and one of the family, explains, the decision was taken to try and consolidate waste management under one contractor.

“We used to have two or three companies involved in the various waste disposal streams but new charges were introduced which didn’t work in our favour, so we took the opportunity to review the contract,” he said.

“Wherever possible we try to work with local suppliers and companies with personality. We looked at a lot of options but Grundon Waste Management impressed us, they were also a long-standing family business and right from the start, worked hard to give us the solution we were looking for. For us this was the closest we could get to a local business with a very personal approach.”

Grundon invited five members of staff from Birtley House to tour its Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and joint venture Lakeside Energy from Waste (EfW) operations at its base at Colnbrook, near Slough, and Tim and his team were very impressed with the operation.

“I knew they would be good at recycling, but I hadn’t appreciated everything else they do in terms of avoiding landfill and turning waste into energy,” he said.

“Although Grundon were a very competitively priced solution, cost wasn’t the deciding factor. Visiting the Colnbrook facilities and realising that, in one fell swoop, we could virtually eliminate the waste we send to landfill, together with the fact they could offer a total solution for all our waste streams, was what made the difference.”

“It also helped us to understand the processes better ourselves and in turn, we were able to pass that information on to our staff to help make them more efficient when it comes to disposing of waste.”

“Grundon was able to give us advice on how to classify waste and we’ve noticed a difference in that nursing staff are now more careful about waste disposal. At one time a lot of material would go into hazardous waste bins which didn’t need to be there and, as we were being charged per bag, we have managed to cut costs a little there.”

The opportunity to work alongside another family business was also important. Birtley House Nursing Home is owned by the same family company which was first registered in 1932 by Dr Lloyd Driver and his wife Joan. Today, the business is owned by Simon Whalley, the couple’s grandson, who manages it with his wife Caroline and two sons, Tim and Frank.

Its heritage draws parallels with Grundon, which was founded in 1929 by engineer Stephen Grundon and moved into the waste management sector in the 1970s. Stephen’s son Norman is still company chairman while his son, Neil is a very hands-on deputy chairman for the business, which has operations throughout the Thames Valley.

Grundon already has a strong track record in helping organisations divert materials from landfill, encouraging them to recycle or send waste to its EfW facility, where incineration creates around 37 Megawatts of electricity, the vast majority of which – enough to power around 50,000 homes – is exported into the National Grid.

The company works closely with clients to find the best solutions for their waste management needs and it is this can-do attitude which also struck a chord with Tim.

“Our predominantly female workforce, was finding it hard to use one hand to open a conventional bin lid and then swing the bag in one-handed,” he said.

“None of the other companies we spoke to could help, but Grundon went away and came back with a solution, installing bins with a drop down panel at the front which makes it much easier for our staff. It was the little details like that that made a difference.”

Grundon has now been working with Birtley House for over a year and streamlining the waste collection has seen the installation of 770 litre capacity lockable wheeled bins for clinical waste, together with 1100 litre bins for general waste and mixed recycling. Both of these are collected weekly; while Grundon’s technical department collects non-healthcare hazardous waste separately.

Tim says they are continually looking at ways to reduce the amount of waste and one of the next big targets will be food waste. Grundon already offers a segregated food waste disposal service, where the majority is sent for anaerobic digestion to be turned into biofuel or fertiliser.

Grundon’s Phil Steer, business development manager, who works with Birtley House, said: “We have a very good working relationship with the team, the operation runs very smoothly and we are always looking for new opportunities to support them, such as in the disposal of food waste.”

“They are very keen on green credentials and it’s important to them to ensure waste is disposed of by recycling and through our EfW plant instead of going to landfill.”

Underlining its commitment to sustainability, Birtley House has also installed a woodchip boiler, fuelled substantially from wood cut on the estate for all its heating and hot water requirements and, because the property isn’t on mains drainage, it uses a reed bed system to treat waste water to Environment Agency standards, with plans to pump the recycled water to irrigate the garden and cider orchard.

Phil Steer
Grundon Waste Management

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