Being as self-sufficient as we can
Interview with Tricia Murray, Managing Director, Bucks Recycling at Westcott Venture Park.
What was your first job?
My first job was working in a launderette. I was 11 years old and did this for three years during school holidays and at the weekends.
Describe how your career developed to the present day.
I then worked in recruitment and set up my own business specialising in the construction industry. As a mature student, I completed a degree in French at Reading University and went on to teach French for the next ten years. Needless to say my fluent French doesn't get used much nowadays!
It was a great twist in fate that brought me to work in the waste industry, my husband had asked me to and I delivered. He was working in the excavation business and had taken a lease on a waste transfer station however the location was poor resulting in no trade. That’s when he asked me to start a waste company to feed the transfer station.
Quite how it came together so quickly is a bit of a blur as whilst teaching French to year nine's, I was placing Yellow Pages advertisements, ordering skips and a lorry for the waste business. We literally started from nothing 12 years ago and have experienced rapid growth, now turning-over £3million and employing over 40 staff.
Of the jobs I've had in the past, the teaching has stood me in best stead for managing, motivating and training here at Bucks Recycling www.bucksrecycling.co.uk
What are the key responsibilities in your position?
As Managing Director I have overall responsibility for the business and have worked extremely hard to get the right people and develop their skills. We employ a number of young people and being an ex teacher, I do get very involved in their personal development, trying to grow and train them. I have a very hands-on approach allowing me to work closely with every team member. I do everything the staff do including picking waste, all except driving a lorry.
Describe a typical day.
My day starts at 5.00am to arrive at the office for 6:30am each day, five and a half days a week as we also work Saturday’s up until 1.00pm. At 6:30am I open the offices, get the machinery greased and ready for operation and make sure we have full staff cover for the day. If not, I contact employment agencies to supply workers for the working day, which starts at 7.00am.
I work from 7.00am to 9.00am with the guys in the transfer station, which involves directing lorries to tip, checking waste transfer notes, organising artic lorries on and off the weigh bridge and directing the teams to sort waste and helping them do so.
I am then office based for the rest of the day conducting meetings, training, working alongside the sales team and often relieve the Transport Manager while he has time off to organise paper work.
At the end of day we spend time fuelling up machines and preparing equipment at the Transfer Station for use the next day. I do my paper work from 5.00pm sometimes through until 8.00pm so it is a really long day, anything from a 12/14 hour day.
Is it unusual for a female to run a business in the waste industry?
I believe I am one of only two or three females running Waste Transfer Stations in this country.
What has been your best decision?
Employing my daughter, Francesca, who is extremely talented and I am very proud of her achievements. She attained her NEBOSH safety qualification first time when there were people going back for second or third retakes and completed a huge Health & Safety project for Bucks Recycling when we first moved to Westcott Venture Park. The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) audited our company and it was her highly professional work that ensured we were fully compliant with health and safety regulations.
In order to run a waste company you need a qualification known as WAMITAB, which proves a technically competent person is running the company. Francesca is now WAMITAB qualified so is fully fledged to run the business, which gives me great confidence and I think the bank manager too!
Another great decision was moving to Westcott Venture Park in 2011. Our business was unable to grow on its existing site and we had got to the stage of turning business away due to our premises being too small. Our move to Westcott has allowed us to realise that growth. We currently occupy Unit 214 on the park along with Hangar 5 and have signed an agreement to lease a further 3,630 sq. ft. in order to relocate our Commercial Vehicle Workshop from Thame.
Working at Westcott is like working in a beautiful country park; it really is a dream to have so much beauty alongside you. In their lunch break, the guys lie on the grass in front of the building and it looks like a holiday park!
We particularly value the service the security guys provide, as they are extremely accommodating and helpful to visitors. They take a real interest in the businesses on the park and do their job efficiently so that you do not get unwelcome callers.
For any business, the last thing you really want is to be working next to a skip business, but we've had absolutely no problems whatsoever with any of the on site occupiers and have good working relationships.
Do you run an apprenticeship scheme?
Yes at the moment we have two young lads training to be mechanics, an apprentice HGV technician and an apprentice plant fitter. We have always had an apprentice as we also have a Commercial Vehicle Workshop alongside the recycling business known as Bucks Trucks.
Do you have a good work/life balance?
No I have an abysmal work/life balance, there's no balance at all!
What are the biggest challenges facing your business today?
The future of waste is changing so quickly, there are a lot of demands from the Government who want 100% recycling but the infrastructure is not yet in place in order to recycle for the environment. Multi million pound investment is needed before we can truly achieve this.
By way of example, we've just exported an artic of cardboard to China for recycling although surely we should be supplying these resources back into our own country instead of shipping them out. We aim to be environmentally friendly but if you have to haul material to another continent then it cancels some of the good work out.
Recycling plastics is a real challenge at the moment and the market has bottomed out with China putting up a 'green fence' and not allowing plastic in. China has rejected some plastic loads on quality, so brokers are now wary, as once you’ve got as far as China, you don't really want to turn back. There is a bit of stalemate in the market as there is no place for these things to go at the moment and overall there are still lots of discrepancies in this industry. We are many years behind countries like Germany and will have to peddle very hard to get ourselves up to speed to be properly recycling.
Is there anything in your business that really irritates you?
The fact that people think you can put literally anything in a skip. Some builders (who should know better) pour liquid concrete on top of general rubbish, to leave us with one big mess. Waste legislation is changing at a rapid pace to encourage more recycling. In order to achieve government targets, we need greater awareness of how waste is recycled. For example, it is now illegal to landfill cardboard. If, however cardboard is covered in food, or dripping with wet paint, it is not possible to recycle it. A "think before you skip" campaign might encourage people to read the Terms & Conditions of skip hire and separate waste more responsibly.
How do you see your company developing over the next five years?
This is not an absolute definite but I would like to start a wood recycling centre business that would produce product from the recycled material. That would be my next goal and I would love to see that achieved in the next five years.
What is your attitude to the environment?
It's our business so we have extensive policies in place and we are working towards zero landfill. We currently recycle well over 95% of the waste we take in here and with EFW (Energy For Waste) if it can't be recycled it can be used as energy. All waste that comes through the door is Reused, Recycled or Reduced (three R's).
We offer a free of charge recycling service to all the tenants at WVP and provide special estate rates on general waste so that the park's business can benefit from preferential rates.
Westcott Venture Park is really 'going for green' in a big way, even down to the solar panels and they have been so flexible in order to meet our business requirements here. On moving here we requested a Farm 200 boiler as we get vast quantities of timber here and wanted to fuel our heating and water rather than the existing oil fuelled resource. Westcott agreed and virgin timber wood now provides our heat and hot water. Again, we are using the resources that we have rather than dipping into oil that is in very short supply. That is part of our whole philosophy as a business, to try to be as self-sufficient as we can. Our new workshop will also be powered in the same way.
What do you do to motivate your workforce?
We all get our hands dirty here, we do a tough job but we do it together, that bonds workers and creates a real family type, working environment. As previously mentioned, I am very hands-on and work closely with the teams. I know that if I took a different approach and just gave orders they wouldn’t get the same morale boost as they do with me mucking in with them to help get the job done.
For most, staff training and ambition are their key motivators, however we do provide incentives for teams who have worked the hardest or achieved the most each week. They choose from a range of prizes including a 4.00pm finishing time, full fry-up breakfast at Westcott's on site café with the boss along with other small incentives in order to boost morale.
What would you like to do when you retire?
I would like to go back to teaching, possibly tutoring people who are struggling with their exams and need a bit of extra help. Either that, or I would consult for the Waste Industry. I love working and the interaction with people so I will never stop working.