Before the onset of Covid-19, there was a global focus on the very real need for industry across every sector to factor sustainability and environmental impact into their future plans. And while this has been somewhat overshadowed by the immediate needs to address the current crisis, reducing waste, recycling and minimising carbon footprint remains as important as ever.
Tommy Griffith of PEL Waste Reduction Equipment, is well aware of this and since starting the company in 2005, has gone from strength to strength, locating areas where change can be made and developing ideas to enable businesses and society to become more environmentally aware.
Initially developing products for reducing glass waste with a patented range of glass crushing equipment for use in the hospitality industry, the Mayo entrepreneur saw an opening for ‘smart’ waste collection and the company’s latest product, solar smart compacting bins, are in demand not only in Ireland, but also in the UK and beyond.
“We have been developing products throughout our business life and these new bins are proving to be the way forward,” says Griffith. “We supply them to councils in Ireland, Britain, Europe and the US and the beauty of them is that they reduce the need for street bin collections by up to ten times less than would have been previously required.
“Our software – Britebin – allows users to log on at any time, see the exact fill level of the bin, how many people have used it, when they were last emptied and when they need to be emptied. They also get a text or email to notify them when the bin needs emptying and this creates efficiency within busy centres, reduces carbon emissions as there are fewer trucks on the road and, because the bins are sealed, the contents can’t be accessed by vermin.
“Also, it means less interference and disturbance for the general public – so if you take Galway city for example, before the council started using our bins, they were being checked up to five times a day. That meant the public was being disrupted by the truck going down (often a pedestrian) street, bags were being pulled out and refuse collectors were getting in people’s way. Now they are being emptied every second day at 6am, so there is no disruption for anyone, and it is a much more efficient system for the council.”
Along with these very apparent benefits, the Britebin is also very useful during the Covid-19 pandemic and this has meant that the company, which has 25 in-house staff and up to 50 subcontractors, has been able to weather the ongoing crisis which has affected so many businesses.
“Like everyone else, when Covid 19 happened initially, we were affected badly, but I believe that there will always be a silver lining somewhere,” says the CEO. “Our bins are non-touch as they are opened by a foot pedal, so they are very hygienic. And because they are sealed, refuse, including the seemingly endless number of disposable masks which are often littered about, can’t blow out on the street. So from a hygiene point of view, our bins are perfect, they are also solar-powered, which is another bonus and we have had had a lot of interest in recent months.”
So while the current global crisis has in fact been good for business, it was the last recession which saw the firm branch out into overseas markets.
“In the middle of the last crash, we knew that we had to expand out of Ireland in order to survive and generate sales, so we decided to see how we got on in the UK,” says Griffith. “We started selling to that market in 2009/2010 and then in 2011, we decided to open an office there as we believed it was really important to have someone on the ground targeting the hospitality and retail sector.
“In the last three years, we began approaching the councils and we now have about five or six UK councils using our products and are currently involved in several other tenders with different councils around the UK. We have found them to be very direct and straight, easy to work with and couldn’t fault them at all.
“In fact, in some ways the UK is almost a home market as it is so close to us geographically and of course there is no language barrier either. And obviously now with Covid making travel much more difficult, it has been great having an office over there and being able to easily trade with the market which is closest to us – so we are currently targeting hard across the UK with virtual meetings and there is definitely a lot of interest.”
Britebin is the only product of its kind selling both in Ireland and in the UK. And while Griffith says there are some other competitors from abroad interested in entering the market, he believes they cannot be beaten on quality and price.
And to keep things that way, the company is staying on top of its game and has plenty of other ideas in the pipeline.
“When you look at our business, we have gone from developing products to developing technology and this is going to continue to be the way forward for us,” says Griffith. “There are so many add-ons we can develop for our product as we go forward and learn what the customer needs. And because we are very visible and the product is out on the streets, this is also very good for the promotion of our brand – we are in so many locations across this country and the UK and in fact, I was watching news on Israel the other evening and saw one of our bins in the shot – so they are definitely getting around.
“There is so much potential for our product as every city in every country needs waste collection so there are lots of possibilities for new business. And to that end, Enterprise Ireland has been a huge support every step of the way with grants for R&D, strategic marketing, and financial planning as well as mentoring and support before and after Covid.
“And right now, we are working on R&D and have established our own technology department – so the world is our oyster in relation to smart cities and I believe we are ticking all the right boxes with regard to emerging technology and reducing carbon footprint.”
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