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Green Business Network

Firbank Chiltern - muck and brass

Achieved ISO 14001 in one year

Recycling of waste collected more than doubled

10% reduction in fuel costs in one year

Award winning Novelis Can Processing Site



Houghton Regis-based Firbank Chiltern operates a waste collection, segregation and recycling business covering Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire and North London. The company has invested resources into a recycling service and has won various environment related awards, including a recent prestigious long service and quality award from the world’s leading recycler of aluminium drink cans – Novelis.

wood recyclingIt is apparent from the minute you set foot on Firbank Chiltern’s site that this is a well run operation – taking into consideration that business that the company is in, the whole site is tidy, well-kept and amazingly clean. This may account for the fact that the business has been able to implement and achieve an accredited ISO 14001 environmental management system in just one year.

Increasing pressure from customers, coupled with the desire to prove that it operated an independently recognised environmentally sound system for its operations, prompted Firbank Chiltern to go for ISO 14001 certification.

The company’s journey started in earnest just over a year ago when sales manager Wayne Basham attended several environmental management systems seminars held by the Green Business Network’s (GBN) followed by one of GBN’s CIWM Waste Awareness Certificate courses. Through this, he was referred to the Business Environmental Training Initiative (BETI), and underwent a CIEH Level 3 Environmental Management Certificate course.

The course proved to be ideal in establishing the foundations for Firbank’s environmental management system. Wayne says: “I found the course very informative and a bit of an eye opener. The training was easy going and the way in which it was delivered made a heavy subject more digestible. It has spurred me on to look for more courses on the subject.”

After this training, Wayne carried out a business review and realised that with commitment and effort Firbank Chiltern could achieve ISO 14001. “We’d always thought ISO 14001 would be too complicated for us, but we discovered that we already had many of the procedures in place,” says Wayne. “Most of the work involved writing down what we already did in a way that was suitable for the standard.”

Achieving ISO 14001 has resulted in more than one benefit. Wayne explains: “It enables us to tender for new business with many more organisations. Tender documents now regularly call for ISO 14001 systems and it may just give us an edge over our competition.”

In addition, going through the actual process of meeting the standard highlighted areas where the company could make improvements. “Working through the standard showed us quality issues that we would never have noticed until we looked closely at processes and procedures. Once you write something down logically, you start to look at it more closely and question why you’re doing something a certain way. Sometimes, this allows you to see a better way of doing it,” says Wayne.

Separating rubbish at Firbank ChilternOne of the major advantages that came out of putting in the ISO 14001 system was that Firbank was able to cut its fuel costs by 10% over a year, and also its carbon emissions. Wayne explains: “We looked at where we were collecting waste from, and then targeted businesses in the areas that were already on our routes. This makes sure that we’re coming back with fuller loads without travelling any further distances.”

Evaluating and thoroughly measuring the waste that was coming on-site also meant that the business could set targets for reducing waste going to landfill. At the start of last year, Firbank Chiltern was recycling approximately 17% of the waste it collected. This figures has now more than doubled, with 30% of the waste brought on-site being sent for recycling. The company is now looking to set new targets for all its activities.