Introduction to Shanks
A mate of a mate's great, great grandfather's mate once said the waste of plenty is the resource of scarcity. You know what? He was talking rubbish. He couldn't have been aware back in the days of the industrial revolution just how much rubbish he was actually talking. 200 years on and I can tell ya. Tons and tons of it.
I mean in Europe alone, we generate about 3 billion tons a year. That's about six tons of solid waste for every single man, woman and sproglet out there. Question is, what do you do with it? Yeah you bin it. Obviously. Then what? Well that is where Shanks comes in.
Shanks or Shanks & McEwan as they were known in those days, started life as a construction company way back in 1880 in Bonnie Old Scotland and got into waste management as a way of making use of disused quarries. But as the saying goes, where there is muck there is brass and by the end of the 20th century Shanks had moved out of the construction game and given themselves a bigger slice of the waste management cake by buying up London Brick Landfill and regional environmental services.
And when they bought four more companies in Belgium and another in the Netherlands, they then became one of Europe's largest waste management players. Dealing in household waste, commercial, industrial and hazardous and contaminated land.
In all Shanks deals with over 7 million 400,000 tons of waste a year and has an organic waste treatment capacity of 1 million tons. They also lead the market in the Netherlands and they've invested bundles into renewable energy facilities in Belgium and the UK. And they've won some of the largest purified contracts ever awarded. A big fish in a pretty big pond you might say. But the growth hasn't stopped at Europe. Oh no. The Shanks has also expanded into Canada.
So what? I hear you say. So Shanks is some big successful waste management company. And? Well I'll tell you what the and is. You see once sticking loads of rubbish in a big hole might well have been big business it was kind of putting a bit of a strain on the natural resources. And it's not exactly environmentally friendly is it? And unless you've been asleep for the first ten years of this green earth fluff for the new millennium I'm presuming you'll have heard of greenhouse gases and climate change.
Now Shanks saw how things were changing. And by selling off their land for their landfill gas businesses alongside their chemical services division, they could not only concentrate on what they do best but they could also raise the necessary dough to invest in recycling infrastructure.
Like here in Blochairn, Glasgow a state of the art recycling facility incorporating years and years of experience and knowledge from across the group. From places like here Icova in Amsterdam. In the Netherlands Shanks companies now process more than 4 million tons of waste a year. Of which more than a whopping 87% is then recycled and used again. Because if you think about it, waste only really becomes waste once you stop using it.
Take my old neck of the woods, East London. Nice eh? But until very recently we weren't exactly super great at doing our recycling bit. But thankfully Shanks is helping the local waste authority to increase recycling from 4% to 25% diverting 35% of all waste produced in landfill. And as well as upgrading all the civil community space into reuse and recycling centers and constructing two materials recycling facilities. Shanks have also build two mechanical, biological treatment facilities. Where the waste is dried and shredded and the glass and metal recycled.
Not only that but it also produces a secondary fuel that can be used as a fossil fuel replacement and for me is just fine and dandy. For if there is one thing I do know, is that fossil fuels are running out. And without wanting to get all apocalyptic, something needs to be done about that. And guess what? Shanks is doing it.
Like here in Ghents where they produce a fuel from what's left of the construction, demolition and industrial waste once it's been recycled. Or here at Shank's Belvoir CHP plant where they use material from ForeignX. A Biomass business they brought in 2007 to convert waste wood into fuel for electricity plants and green energy. Or here at Alcover, Amsterdam where they produce this pellet fuel used by customers in Sweden for commercial and industrial waste.
So what else? Well in 2007 Shanks bought Orgaworld which despite sounding like some sort of theme park is actually an innovate organic waste treatment company using anaerobic digestion to convert organic waste into fuel, energy and agricultural products. It's a technology now used right across the group. In Amsterdam Shanks has commissioned this, Europe's largest anaerobic digestion facility. Processing 100,000 tons of organic waste a year. That produces enough energy to power about 5,000 homes. They're also using anaerobic digestion technology to manage food waste for all of us in the UK and Albert Heijn, the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands. Who'd a thought? Eh? An old prawn sandwich would come in so handy.
And in 2010, 130 years after first starting up in Scotland Shanks [00:04:45] to open one of the very first and largest commercial anaerobic digestion facilities using all the world technology. They've got two more planned in Oxfordshire and East London. The Shanks Group generates over 102,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy a year. Fewer people know more about generating sustainable energy sources than Shanks.
But you know what it is? I mean, recycling and energy production it's not just about infrastructure and kind of gizmos is it? No. It's about changing the way people think and act. And who better to help out with that than Shanks. Now Shanks is working with schools, with communities and faith groups to help educate them on how and why they should recycle.
Governments and councils are finally getting their act together and the laws on waste management are only going to get tougher. Which is great for companies like Shanks who already operate in countries where the regulations are more stringent. Not quite so great for those who still insist on chucking their waste in a big hole.
So getting back to what my mate's great, great grandfather's mate said, he was talking rubbish. The was of plenty doesn't necessarily have to be the resource of scarcity. Does it? Because if you can make use of waste, either by recycling or turning what you can't recycle into fuel and energy. Then there's gotta be a future in that. Hasn't there?