Ekko Waste Management, the innovative and fast-growing recycling expert, has added the prestigious five star Blythswood Square destination hotel and spa in Glasgow to its client portfolio, which already includes some of the country’s biggest leisure chains and hotel groups.
The connection with the grand Victorian venue, which dominates Glasgow’s most stately square and was formerly the RAC Club, means that Ekko will take hundreds of thousands more glass bottles per year out of land fill and add to its impressive environmental credentials.
The Ayr-based company, which provides glass crushing machines and a collection service to the leisure sector, is now becoming a major player in helping companies meet green objectives and significantly reduce landfill costs. Each single one of its machines can recycle more than 100 tonnes of crushed glass which would otherwise have to be buried.
And as Ekko director Brian Williamson pointed out, more than 80% of the volume of a bottle going to landfill is air. "Who," he said, "wants to pay to dispose of air?"
With landfill costs about to increase again, the Ekko business model – brought into production just last year – is now reaching critical mass and Williamson is gearing up to franchise the concept outwith the company’s west of Scotland heartland.
He said: "Our core strategy has been to target the licensed trade, and we have been outstandingly successful so far. But it is clear that the Ekko machines have a place anywhere glass is used and disposed of, including shopping centres, schools, hospitals, office blocks – and, indeed, the bottling sector."
Ekko, which turns over £300,000 and employs five people, has stolen a march on competitors and gained a valuable marketing lead by employing existing glass crushing concepts, but making the machines which do the job reliable, safe and portable.
For the licensed trade particularly, this means that premises can dispense with large, unsightly bins which helps them avoid kerbside fines and penalties and improves relations with neighbours by reducing glass collection noise.
But for Williamson, it is the unassailable figures behind the Ekko operation which not only make sound financial sense but will, as he puts it, "allow him to look his grandchildren in the eye" when they ask him what he did for the environment.
Despite the fact that only about 25% of the 700,000 tonnes of bottle waste produced by the licensed trade each year is recycled, he said, glass is eminently suitable for continual recycling, since it suffers no loss in quality or clarity.
One tonne of his crushed glass consists of up to 4000 bottles and he is recycling tens of thousands of tonnes per year. This, in turn, saves thousands of tonnes of natural resources, such as sand, limestone and soda ash.
The Ekko machines crush the bottles into glass cullet, a name which derives from the ancient art of glass blowing, when small pieces of glass, or "collet", were left on the blowing iron. This cullet is sorted by colour at the glass recycling plant, removing the need for bar staff to separate the bottles before disposal. As well as attracting major clients such as Blythswood Square, Millennium Hotels and Crowne Plaza, Ekko is also gathering a considerable following among local independents, who have been quick to seize on the tangible savings resulting from the process.
Paul Spencer, operations director at the popular and long-established Club de Mar in Ayr, said that the Ekko system allowed his venue to go from having three 1100 litre commercial bins full of potentially dangerous glass bottles per week outside the premises to three household wheelie bins of harmless crushed glass.
And Buzzworks, which operates six licensed venues including a recently opened site in Largs Yacht Haven was an early adopter of the Ekko glass recycling uplift facilities. Kenny Blair, director, said: "Not only do we save in collection charges and labour charges to sort our glass but we save valuable and important space in our back of house areas allowing us to allocate more selling space in our new venues.
"I would estimate we save approximately 20 minutes per day sorting our glass per venue. Multiply this by six venues and the result is a saving in labour to our business of more than £5,000 per year." And in Glasgow, with the arrival of the Commonwealth games in 2014, the city council approached many of the businesses and licensed premises in The Merchant city area and asked them to remove their bins from the street.
Cafe Gandolfi, one of the original Merchant city venues had limited options, with three successful outlets producing up to one tonne of glass each week. Ekko’s system allowed it to reduce glass waste volume by 80% and the businesses now have space to store the required bins inside.