In the five years since Scotland set out its national circular economy strategy – one of the first in the world – it has been recognised by the World Economic Forum, built on its ambitious targets, and received an international accolade by way of a ‘Circulars’ award for Cities and Governments in 2017.
The policy is underpinned by the key principles of the waste hierarchy – prevention and promoting reuse, polluter pay, and the gathering of evidence as we assess effectiveness. Significantly, recycling targets focus on the reduction of household waste, food waste, biodegradable municipal waste, and landfill, with 2025 set out as the milestone year for delivery.
Whilst recycling rates have improved – 59% of all Scottish waste was recycled in 2017 – household recycling rates – 44.7% in 2018 – remain lacking. Added to this, a valuable recycling system is not only about the volume we are collecting, but also, increasingly, the quality and the value of the materials we are collecting for recycling.
In Perthshire, the Binn Group has been quietly building on the solid foundation of their decades-old waste management business, to become a leading company in the field of decarbonisation.
Based at the family farm in Glenfarg, Binn Ecopark is an established and growing circular economy-focused resource management centre and is the only organisation of its type to fully process all its waste – some 500,000 tonnes annually – using green power.
Leading the Way In UK Recycling
Recognised across the industry as an exemplar organisation, Binn’s steady course of action over the past two decades has been to embrace change through innovation, leading by example, and providing tangible opportunities for others to collaborate, partner and follow.
Allan MacGregor, Binn Group Chief Executive, explains how a small skip hire service started in 2001 progressed to the forefront of recycling in the UK.
“Really, the farm diversification first started in the early ‘90s with my father, John MacGregor, when he spotted an opportunity for a modern landfill solution. At the time, he knew the UK landfill tax was coming and that animal by-product would be banned from landfill altogether. Added to this, the three landfills within Perth and Kinross were filling up – a solution was needed.
“By 1993, Binn Farm had planning permission for the development of a new modern fully engineered landfill site capable of managing leachate and capturing energy from the landfill gas. There’s no doubt that what my father saw initially was a business opportunity. He realised that there was money to be made and he wanted to ensure Binn was a frontrunner in private waste management and recycling.
“In 2000, Binn Skips Ltd was formed and I joined as CEO to drive the business forward, and to take those early-stage innovations to the next stage. Since then, it’s been organic in its growth and what started as a business opportunity for farmland has become an all-encompassing ethos for the group.
“From small points of detail, like ensuring all directors are driving electric cars, to the big picture strategy around 100% wind power onsite, and ensuring we remain fully carbon-neutral, we’re committed to what we do and take our position as trailblazers seriously.”
Binn Ecopark has been heralded as the most integrated and low-carbon resource management facility in the UK, and the aim of Allan and the senior management team is to lead the way Europe-wide. The site processes over 500,000 tonnes of waste annually – 300,000 of which is generated via their own waste management services – and currently includes two Material Reclamation Facilities (MRF) treating commercial, industrial and municipal waste, an anaerobic digestion facility, in-vessel and green-waste composting facilities, a Residual Waste Solid Recovered Fuel Plant and a waste wood processing and storage facility.
Perth Smart Energy City Project
Planning consent has recently been secured for Project Beacon, an Advanced Plastics Sorting and Upcycling Facility (APSuF), which is a collaboration between the Binn Group, Eco ideaM Ltd, Pi Polymer Recycling Ltd and Recycling Technologies Ltd.
“Partnership working is important to the advancement of the Ecopark and I’m a big believer in bringing the best people to the table in order to get to where we want to be. From the experts on our team to the partners we seek out, it is the vision and determination of our people that has enabled us to forge ahead.
“A great example of this is a recent development that has kick-started the exporting of our excess electricity via private grid. We currently generate 90% more electricity than we use each year. By engaging with the Perth Smart Energy City project led by PKC we have created a partnership with Green Cat Renewables and Bluestone Energy to deliver green power to Perth city. It’s an exciting opportunity and one that will take us to the next step in decarbonisation in Perth and Kinross, and wider Scotland.”
The development Allan refers to is a four-turbine 9MW wind farm, which will enable Binn to become one of the UK’s first low-carbon, low-cost private grid systems. Solar power, bio-gas, battery systems and a small waste to energy plant will complete the energy mix at the facility and support the transition to advanced food production and other clean technology developments.
The Memorandum of Understanding
As well as this investment in infrastructure and future technology, the site aims to develop a training, education, research and development centre, promoting low-carbon and clean technology systems. The company’s transport focus includes electrical and hydrogen vehicles.
“In 2019, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the local authority, Perth and Kinross Council. The MOU aims to develop a structured approach to discussions, co-ordination and joint promotion to attract further investment, research and employment opportunities to Binn Ecopark and the city.
“Our ultimate goal is to have the full circular economy right here on site in Glenfarg. All we need are partners and tenants with a vision for green growth and addressing climate change. A specific vision I’ve always had is to process recycled materials into a usable product. We know there are companies out there already doing this, and the opportunities for start-ups in this space to build profitable businesses are there for the taking.”