In April of 2001 Waterford County Council extended an invitation to the company to tender for the processing of dry household recyclables including cans, plastic, and cardboard. The company jumped at the opportunity, succeeded in securing the contract, and a new public and private partnership was soon in place. By issuing this contract Waterford County Council became the first Council nationwide to introduce a major recycling initiative which commenced in November 2001, and Sam Shire is the first private company to have forged such a partnership with a local authority.
“It has worked a treat for both parties’”, says Graham Leake. “We couldn’t possibly forge a more successful and co-operative partnership and I can only see us going from strength to strength in the future’’. That’s a view shared by the Council’s director of services at its Planning and Environment Dept., Denis McCarthy. “Our link up with Sam Shire Recycling Ltd. has proven to be a huge success and we hope that it will continue for a very long time to come’’, said Mr. McCarthy. Both men are also appreciative of the level of support given to the venture by the general public. “Their supportive participation in the recycling programme has been all important’’, says Graham Leake.Part of the company’s extended business now involves the recycling of clothes and textiles, and they are also emptying bottle banks throughout the county and taking them to the Lismore plant for recycling. “There they are segregated and baled and then shipped to the UK and are sold on as far as China’’, he said.Food and drink cans are also separated in Lismore, but because there is little or no outlet for tin cans in Ireland now because of the collapsed situation at the former Irish Steel production plant they too are shipped to Britain. “Glass bottles are also processed by us and shipped to the UK to be made into sandpaper and the like’’, the Sam Shire MD said. In recent times too the company has concluded negotiations with Roadstone for a major order to put crushed glass into a Waterford County Council road construction project on a trial basis. “That is very encouraging’’, says Graham Leake, “and if it proves to be the success we believe it will be then another new and significant opportunity will have opened up for us’’.A further planned expansion starting next month will be the collection of bottles from pubs and hotels which the Sam Shire boss insists will be “another revolutionary service’’. The company is also looking to extend its service into South Tipperary."
So what went wrong?
The resulting story is well told by Christy Parker on the Youghalonline.com website from which I will quote the following:
"In 2001, Sam Shires, in conjunction with waste treatment company, HLC Henley Burrows Ltd. also of Worcester, successfully tendered for a five-year contract to handle Waterford County Council’s kerbside recyclable waste. It was the State’s first such public/private waste management contract. According to Paul Daly, former Senior Engineer at the Council’s Environment Department, Leake also received a Council loan of £25-30,000, which he repaid.
Interestingly, both companies, in conjunction with Roche Engineering Ballinasloe, failed to win a similar tender with Galway Co Council. Meanwhile, Waterford Co. Council declined to check Leake’s business cv, beyond tax clearance. Instead they “found the Henley Burrows CV impressive. We interviewed them and they were very knowledgeable,” explains Mr. Daly. It is unclear what subsequent role, if any, that company played.
Had they checked Leake’s credentials the Council might have unearthed a series of failed businesses, disgruntled creditors and various ongoing enterprises bearing similar ‘Sam Shire’ appendages with some variations on Leake’s own name.The Council also awarded Sam Shires a contract to empty and process the county’s bottle bank produce. A multi-national workforce of 28 was employed, with the waste baled primarily for sale and shipment to northern England.
Initially Waterford Co. Council paid Sam Shires a gate fee plus subsequent Repak subsidy. “That became a logistical nightmare so eventually we just increased his gate fee and retained the subsidy,” Mr. Daly elaborates. With South Tipperary literally adding weight, Leake processed 600 to 700 tons weekly, on a gate fee of approximately €100 per ton. Shipping costs to Britain were approximately €118 per container of 20 tons. He was doing well, though workers regularly complained of conditions and at least three Health and Safety inspections by Co. Council officials filed critical reports of the business.
Then, in early 2003, Leake stopped sending his segregated and baled product to Britain. Instead he availed of a London-based Trans Frontier Shipping agency called Railuk Environmental Solutions Ltd., operated by a Cameron Luck and a Mr. Paimir Rai. Railuk would buy co-mingled dry waste for shipping to India with Sam Shires further benefiting from a gate fee once it arrived. With no need for segregation, Leake could shed most of his workforce.
Amongst EU and OECD States, transported waste for recovery “within, into and out of the European Community” falls into three categories; Red -toxic/dangerous; Amber -non-hazardous co-mingled Green waste, which in turn was non-hazardous recyclable, like paper and plastic, etc. Of the three, Green waste does not require a TFS licence.
In October 2003, customs officials in Rotterdam and Antwerp intercepted over 100 containers of co-mingled waste categorised as Green and bound for India, where it would not have been accepted had it been properly listed as Amber. Nine Irish local authorities were implicated and up to 20 containers were traceable to Lismore. In December Cameron Luck sought, in vain, the intervention of the Department of Environment, claiming he could not afford the containers’ €5,000 weekly storage costs.
Leake was now in serious difficulty. He couldn’t get his picking line running again. He had containers of waste with nowhere to send them, while simultaneously Waterford County Council were sending him more waste, under contract. Plus, he had the bottle bank recovery and commercial waste to manage. “He finally found a German company to accept the waste but there was a kind of four-month hiatus when he couldn’t move anything and it just piled up,” recalls Mr. Daly. In 2004, the Council opened its own recycling plant in Dungarvan and did not renew the Sam Shires contract.