Left to their own Devizes

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:
Me & My

Wiltshire-based Grist Environmental is perhaps more glamorous than many of its peers, providing services to the events industry including pop concerts (not to mention steam fairs – phwoar!) alongside the usual meat and potatoes of waste processing. Geraldine Faulkner reports

Despite more than 40 years in the waste management sector, Nigel Grist, managing director of Grist Environmental, shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, he and his Wiltshire-based team are taking on more work and more projects in sectors that are not normally associated with waste solutions specialists.

As well as offering services such as skip hire, wheelie bin hire, scrap metal processing and hazardous waste collections – which you would normally connect with a waste specialist – Grist Environmental is making a name for itself in the events sector; for example, pop concerts with celebrities such as Jamie Cullum, regattas such as the well-known one at Henley, music festivals like End of the Road and open-air events including the Great Dorset Steam Fair, for which Grist Environmental supplied a total waste management package and provided 1,000 wheelie bins this year. The list of events just goes on and on and the logistics for each makes an impressive roll call.

“Each day at the Great Dorset Steam Fair generates around 60 tonnes of litter, which amounts to around 300 tonnes at the end of the five-day event,” says Jonathan Taylor, environmental manager with Grist Environmental. “This means a lot of organising goes on behind the scenes, from when someone puts an item in a bin to when it ends up in our MRF.”

As part of its events service, Grist even has a corporate hospitality division which includes a front-of-house team of staff to clear tables and discreetly manage litter and other waste and recycling needs during the course of an event, with a ‘back of house’ team who work with caterers. A skill that not many other waste management specialists can boast of.

“We often support high-profile and low-key sporting events, festivals, exhibitions and private parties,” continues Taylor. “We can supply clients with additional staff, wheelie bin hire, waste recycling services, portable toilets, crowd barriers and fencing.”

And since Grist operates a zero-to-landfill policy on all the waste and recyclable materials the company collects – which comprises commercial and industrial along with construction and demolition waste (no municipal) – this puts the onus on the materials recovery facility back at Grist Environmental’s Devizes site in Wiltshire.

“We process between eight to nine hundred tonnes of materials a week,” states the MD. “The materials are processed either by shredding, baling or screening to create a quality product which is fit for onward treatment.” Examples include bales of cardboard being sent to paper mills or scrap metal bales being sold to foundries to be made into new products.

“We also sell car parts from our car breakers yard and chicken litter (for fertilising material) from the agricultural cleaning division,” continues Grist.

A name that you see emblazoned on much of the component parts of the MRF’s reprocessing system is Kiverco.

The machine manufacturer has supplied Grist Environmental with a screener on the front end, a picking station and a fines treatment section that was installed this year; with the likelihood of more equipment being added next year.

Indeed, the relationship between Grist Environmental and Kiverco has been going for between four and five years.

“We looked at a lot of machines when it came to installing the kit and it is important of course that the machinery is robust and the quality of build is good, but we decided that the back-up service is just as important – in fact it is more important,” states Grist when asked why he had opted for Kiverco.

Marcus McAlinden, Kiverco’s area sales manager, is Grist’s first point of contact with the manufacturer and is a regular visitor to the Wiltshire-based MRF.

Taylor again: “Marcus pays us a visit once a month to make sure everything is going okay and to see if there is anything he can do to help. He’s pretty hands-on, which is just as well because if we have a breakdown, the effect is huge. You have to stick to maintenance schedules, make sure things like greasing are done correctly so you get as much longevity out of the system as possible.”

McAlinden interjects: “We call it ‘planned preventative maintenance’.”

“It’s best to plan ahead rather than wait for the machines to break down,” continues the environmental manager. “Blaming someone doesn’t help. By working with us, Marcus is getting a good knowledge of our system because he wants to understand it, as well as be aware of what we need out of it. It’s a living and breathing thing, so we need to give Marcus a good brief. Essentially you’re trying to prevent downtime.”

With close to a million pounds invested in the Kiverco equipment, it is no surprise that McAlinden is keen to help keep things running smoothly.

As well as ensuring there is no downtime at its MRF, the Wiltshire-based waste specialist is busy in shoring up relationships with the local community.

In July this year it joined forces with the business improvement district (BID) in nearby Salisbury to launch a ‘waste charter’ for the mediaeval city, where up until then there had not been a communal approach to waste collection.

At least eight firms are reported to have operated in the past, each with different schedules. Salisbury BID has negotiated a deal with Grist which is expected to save its members hundreds of pounds a year.

Following a visit to Grist’s MRF, Steve Godwin, business manager for Salisbury BID, told the Salisbury Journal: “I had no idea there was that level of sophistication in waste. Literally everything gets recycled. Improving the look of the city, helping our levy-payers to reduce their costs and access better service and being environmentally friendly is important for businesses and the city.”

Graham Hayball of Hayball & Co Cycles is one of those who have signed up to the scheme.

He says: “This scheme from Salisbury BID demonstrates the value of businesses working together. We could not have negotiated such a contract by acting alone.”

An attitude that also applies to the relationship between Grist and Kiverco.

Looking to the future, Nigel Grist’s son, Marcus, says: “The business needs to start thinking along the lines of mobile equipment in order to make what we do easier and to see what we can do to make life simpler for our staff of pickers.” So the company is considering running mobile picking stations on some of its events sites.

“The problem is the sheer volume of materials that need to be dealt with in a short space of time,” adds Grist senior. “It takes a lot of handling just to keep on top of the site.”

Taylor echoes the MD’s sentiments.

“We don’t want to drop our quality standards so it means a lot of handling just to keep the process operating smoothly.”

This bodes well for a long and fruitful relationship between Grist and Kiverco.

“It’s about continuing the relationship,” concludes Taylor. “It’s not like buying a vehicle from a car salesman, it’s about how well we work together in the long term.”

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