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WATCH: Family firm Recycling Lives is leading the way in green business

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On the back of its record-breaking third Queen’s Award, reporter TOM EARNSHAW takes a tour of Recycling Lives’ north Preston base to get an insight into the hard work being undertaken by all

Business is booming at one city recycling company after landing a record-breaking third award.

William Fletcher, Managing Director. Photos: Neil Cross.

William Fletcher, Managing Director. Photos: Neil Cross.

Recycling Lives in Essex Street, Preston, has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade after its work in recycling high-quality metals and plastics for export to Europe, Asia and the United States ready for reuse and remanufacture.

The Post was invited to its recycling centre in Longridge Road to see what makes the business one of Lancashire’s best.

“We’ve grown significantly in size over the last three to five years,” explained manager director William Fletcher.

“We were at 20 million sales five years ago; now our run rate is 75 million.”

William Fletcher, Managing Director, Gary Halpin, Chief Engineer, Danny Jackson, Operations Director, Dave Gallagher, Senior Operations Manager with one of the company's three Queens Awards

William Fletcher, Managing Director, Gary Halpin, Chief Engineer, Danny Jackson, Operations Director, Dave Gallagher, Senior Operations Manager with one of the company's three Queens Awards

The recycling centre has one of only three pre-shredders in the UK as well as Europe’s only fully-digitised fragmentiser, which shred and separate waste items into composite materials.

For the company, cars are key. It typically processes 7,000 cars a month, compared to 1,000 three years ago, as well as two tonnes of scrap metal every minute.

William said: “Our key aim now is to take what we’ve done really well in Lancashire and the north west to a national level; from a regional business to a national business.”

Plans are in place for sites in Walsall, London, and Falkirk, which will see job opportunities grow from the current 325.

A car being taken apart prior to recycling.

A car being taken apart prior to recycling.

For Recycling Lives, the Queen’s Award marks a change from its previous two wins, both in sustainable development.

“We’re massively proud of the achievement, particularly because this award is in a different category,” William explained.

“The last two were in sustainable development, more focused on the great work we do from a social perspective.

“This one is commercial. We feel we’re the best at what we do and this helps to prove that we are very good and do it in a very professional way. A Queen’s Award is about doing business in the right way.”

The cranes take out every car's engine and fuel tank prior to be shredded.

The cranes take out every car's engine and fuel tank prior to be shredded.

And while the award recognises their commercial growth, the reasons for their past wins are still central to how they operate on a daily basis.

William said: “Commercial success is allowing us to take what we have done really well regionally to a national model that we’re very proud of.

“We’re a source of jobs for people that might otherwise struggle to find them.”

Recycling Lives hold their Prisoner Reforms Academies in 10 prisons across the country to offer opportunities to people who need help to get their lives back on track.

He added: “We support these people into employment. We’re in 10 prisons, with about 200 people going through the programme at any one time.

“It’s a six stage programme so when they leave prison they are ‘work ready’. There’s four reasons it works; financial independence where we pay the most that we can pay; having positive role models around them instead of negative; guaranteed accommodation if needed; and work ethic, a reason to get out of bed in a morning. By guaranteeing this we see a success.

Recycling Lives' Longridge Road site.

Recycling Lives' Longridge Road site.

“Over the last two years 75 have been released and only two have re-offended. It’s worth millions every year to the country in social value.

“And it’s not just the individual that benefits but the family and friends around them too.”

'We're very much a set of grafters'

The business was founded at a little scrap yard in 1974 by company president and Longton man Terry Jackson under the name Steptoe and Son.

Terry’s son Danny Jackson, who is operations manager, said: “It’s now about the progress from then to what it is now, a huge nationwide outfit.

“It’s been a family business all right through. I’ve a very proud and mum and dad.”

Danny added: “My dad is going down to collect the Queen’s Award on June 28 – but he doesn’t know it yet!”

William added: “It’s very much a family business. We’ve gradually built on this ethos.

“We’ve a very clear set of values. Everyone works hard together as a team. We’re very much a set of grafters.”

Recycling Lives typically processes 7,000 cars a month, compared to 1,000 three years ago.

Recycling Lives typically processes 7,000 cars a month, compared to 1,000 three years ago.

Cranes tearing apart cars prior to recycling.

Cranes tearing apart cars prior to recycling.