Waste not, want not
New Earth Solutions, joint 108th on the Solent 250 list, is a waste treatment and renewable energy specialist, based at Verwood, Dorset. Sue Hughes met managing director Darren Stockley
If an old adage refers to ‘money for old rope‘, New Earth has proved there is money in waste, or in what can be done with it when it no longer simply goes to landfill. The company, dedicated to delivering technical and environmental solutions to the challenges of a developing green economy, provides sustainable waste treatment services to local authority and commercial customers across the UK, helping them enhance recycling and reduce the impact on the environment by diverting waste away from landfill. It is also at the forefront of developing local, low-carbon renewable energy recovery plants utilising refuse-derived fuels.
Progressive landfill tax – at £72 per tonne from April 2013 – has meant it has become increasingly more economical for local authorities to utilise developing technology which avoids vast amounts of waste going to landfill. It is one area where a government incentive has pushed the industry forward, and for that reason, managing director Darren Stockley is very optimistic about prospects for the next few years.
”We have signed long-term contracts with local authorities. Against these contracts we build a facility and build in some additional capacity. So far we have five waste treatment facilities and we handle more than 400,000 tonnes of waste annually for 17 local authorities,” he says. ”The banks are more comfortable with lending when a contract guarantees a revenue stream and our waste treatment technology is tried and trusted, so it‘s a good place to be. We‘ve grown from an annual turnover of £4 million in 2009 to £25m in 2012.”
New Earth has developed technology specifically for the treatment of municipal solid waste and other similar wastes. Local authorities and commercial businesses are under increasing pressure to reduce their reliance on landfill disposal, increase recycling rates and move to a low-carbon economy. Additionally, the process is capable of the preparation of a refuse-derived fuel for use in renewable energy schemes. This is produced in support of the principles of the waste hierarchy – recycling occurs first wherever possible before the recovery of energy is employed. Overall the process can deliver rates of landfill diversion in excess of 90% for residual waste streams.
New Earth established its energy business in 2011 to close the loop between waste treatment and energy recovery and sought to achieve a first-to-market position in the successful commercial application of advanced thermal energy recovery technologies, namely gasification and pyrolysis through the use of its own energy technology – NEAT.
Residual waste is separated into two streams via something akin to a big sieve; smaller organic particles become compost which is used for ecological benefit in land restoration schemes and ferrous and non-ferrous metals and plastics are recovered for recycling and sent to specialist reprocessors; the bigger bits are turned into fuel which ultimately produces renewable energy, however there are currently shipping/transport costs associated with sending it to Europe for this to take place.
”That‘s why the growth and future direction of the business involves commissioning our own renewable energy power facilities. Our future is not just in contracting new waste, but ‘retrofitting‘ and selling energy from existing facilities. The first of these is a 13 megawatt power plant at Avonmouth; it goes live this month and will produce renewable energy which qualifies for government green power incentives. Our modular design enables our energy facilities to be scaled to meet the needs of our customers,” continues Stockley.
”What really differentiates New Earth in the current climate, when banks are not keen on investing in emerging technology, is backing from the Isle of Man and Channel Island-listed investment fund, New Earth Recycling and Renewables (Infrastructure). The fund is targeted at experienced investors and has raised over £160m. This has enabled us to finance and build these much needed facilities in the past three years despite the difficult economic climate.”
New Earth has grown from 30 staff in 2009 to more than 170, of whom 15 are engaged in R&D. With a move to green energy business, once it has satisfied UK customer demand, global opportunities beckon: ”We design, build, finance and operate and at the moment we are UK-centric. This may change over time but we are treading carefully as we explore overseas options.”
Regulatory issues which have the potential to hold back the business are around achieving planning and permits for new facilities, because any carrier or handler of waste has stringent regulatory responsibilities. ”We spend a lot of money on environmental control and work very closely with the Environment Agency to try and ensure we‘re a good neighbour. It‘s taken very seriously, because, for example, we have 200,000 tonnes of waste going through our Avonmouth facility in a year.”
Stockley, who has more than a decade of experience in the waste management industry, also has executive board experience in both the IT and telecoms sectors, which gave him an understanding of managing and controlling companies experiencing rapid growth during the dot com era.
As New Earth moves forward, his target is to see senior finance raised against the renewable energy technology. If he has a key message for the Government, it is this: ”Maintaining the incentives for green energy is important, after all landfill tax has worked as a government policy – we‘re living proof – but bidding for local authority contracts needs to be streamlined. We can spend millions on tendering for a project over several years which will not come to fruition.”
‘Waste not, want not‘ springs to mind.