J&B Recycling is the largest independent waste management firm in the North East. With over 200 members of staff, J&B Recycling works across three sites located in both Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.
Specialising in the management of both trade and local authority kerbside waste, J&B Recycling serves customers across Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland.
2018 was a landmark year for J&B Recycling, as well as celebrating their 20th anniversary they also reached record growth with a turnover of £16 million. They also saw a huge increase in their operating profits, which increased from £870,000 to £1.2 mill.
Their key objective has always been to divert as much waste as possible from landfill, by increasing the levels and types of waste that can be recycled. It was the first company to set up a plastic bottle bank scheme and one of the first companies to offer co-mingled recyclable collections for its commercial customers.
Managing Director Vikki Jackson-Smith started working in her father’s solid fuels business at the age of 16. Vikki always held a keen interest in the logistics side of the business and at the age of 27 she took on the position of Managing Director. Shortly after she diversified the business and set up J&B Recycling. We were honoured to get the chance to talk to Vikki about her many successes as part of our #WomenInSMEs campaign.
1. Hi Vikki, thanks so much for getting involved in the campaign! Can you start by telling us a bit about your business journey?
At 16 I began working on the weighbridge in my father Alan’s solid fuels business, Jackson’s Fuel Company, on a weekend and during school holidays.
I took a keen interest in the logistics side of the business and four years later, I became the company’s transport manager.
My dad was looking to take a step back from the business and that is when I took on the role of Managing Director, at the age of 27.
As the solid fuel market was in swift decline, I diversified, setting up a new independent waste management company – J&B Recycling – to utilise the existing infrastructure of site and plant along with the skills of processing and logistics.
2. That’s seriously impressive. Could you highlight some of your challenges and successes?
Over 20 years in business there have been many challenges, including diversification, a major fire on one of our sites, the constant changes in the recycling sector – such as new quality standards and technology and the volatile fluctuation of the commodity markets. However, despite it all, last year we celebrated record financials.
I feel that with a considered approach challenges can not only be overcome, but can actually strengthen a business. One good example of this was how we responded to the Chinese Government’s 2018 'National Sword' campaign, a year-long crackdown to reduce the import of contaminated recycling materials into the country.
Thanks to the campaign, end markets have made their procedures on import materials stricter in order to ensure waste received is of the highest of quality.
Even though J&B Recycling has never had an issue with produced product quality, a part of our continuous improvement program was to ensure the level of quality is the highest it can possible be, to ensure sustainability for our customers and meet future demands from the end markets, which are inevitably getting stricter.
We are now one of just a handful of material recovery facilities (MRFs) in the UK allowed to continue to supply China with high quality materials.
3. I think that will be really inspiring for our readers Vikki. To other women starting out in business, what would be your advice?
My senior management team is a 50/50 split of men and women who all bring something unique to the team.
I strongly believe it’s our team that creates success at J&B Recycling and would advise those starting out in business to ensure your goals and ethos are communicated and understood to ensure a smooth growth and listening to staff is fundamental to any success that may follow.
4. Lastly, why were you drawn to the campaign, can you offer a comment on why you think it's important?
The statistics show that 19% of SMEs in the UK are led by women and it would be great to see this figure rise.
I read that in good times more men are hired in top roles and in bad times more women!
I was fortunate to recently attend a businesswoman awards ceremony in my home region of Teesside and was so inspired hearing the stories of women across a range of sectors. It was an absolute honour to take home the Company of the Year Award too.
I see this campaign as a great way of continuing to tell those stories to inspire other women who would like to follow in participant’s footsteps.