By Aine McGlinchey
Brickkiln Skip Hire based in Derry recycles 80% of everything that comes into their yard. They recycle plastic, scrap metal, plasterboard, construction material, food waste, cardboard, clothes, wood, green waste, polyester, brown paper tissue and glass. These recovered materials are then sent to the UK, Europe, India, China, and the Irish Republic.
Opened in 1981, Brickkiln is one of Northern Ireland’s biggest waste management firms. They have been reprocessing material for almost 20 years, and their target is to recycle everything that can be and minimise their landfill dependence. They currently have around 40 staff and have been fully operating throughout the pandemic.
The plasterboard they recycle goes to Enviro Grind to be reused to make fertilizer. Their rigid plastic is taken to Van Werven in Dublin, that is then grinded for reuse.
Managing director of Brickkiln, Thomas McGlinchey says, “Everything that comes into this yard has a home.”
“At the start of Covid we found it very different. We expected to lose a lot of business and we did. Between our hotel business, school businesses, pubs, restaurants, cafes, it all shut. At that point, we furloughed half of our staff.
“Our haulage end continued the same as it was Council work so there was no difference there. All the amenity sites that we do in Coleraine and Omagh, had all stopped, so them drivers we had to put off the road.
“But what the strange thing was, with people being locked in, they decided to do work at their houses. DIY stuff, cut the grass, cut the trees, started doing work that they put off for ages, and our private skip business took off.
“We had doubled the number of normal skips going out each week.
“Derry City Council closed down all their amenity sites in the first lockdown. So, people had nowhere else to go except private operations. So, that’s what kept us busy in the first lockdown.
“I think in the last two or three years, people have become more aware of Climate Change and what actually happens with the material that they throw out.
“I think a lot of the materials that have been publicised that have been recycled, are not properly recycled. They are either burnt or go to a far off country for reprocessing and are basically just dumped. So a lot of the material that you put into your blue bins, never see a reprocessing plant.
“What they should be doing is promoting the building of a proper incinerator in Northern Ireland.
“There’s going to be no landfills in Northern Ireland within the next two or three years. The dumps are nearly all full.”
Brickkiln has the only licensed landfill site in Derry. All their inert waste (clay, rubble, sand), is sent to their site on Woodside Road.
Mr McGlinchey continues, “Brexit is already having an impact on waste. Between Brexit and Covid, the amount of material available for recycling and reprocessing and exporting has gone down. And the countries that we can send it to, we find it harder getting containers to put material into, to ship it out.
“It really has dropped dramatically since Christmas.
“It’s quite difficult running a business at this time. Especially with staff, the fear of them catching Covid. One member of staff getting it could close us down, we could lose a lot of workers. We try and separate them as much as we can so they’re not working together.
“It’s not fun running your own business at the moment. A lot of stress and a lot of worry.”