Sandra recently joined the Eurocell Recycle leadership team and is responsible for our Infeed, Logistics and Waste Management operations. Hear her thoughts on the how the challenges the sector faces can be overcome and discover the benefits of closing the recycling loop.
What role did you hold previously?
Most recently, I spent seven years at InterWaste, a specialist waste management company based in South Africa. My time was split between two roles – head of the recycling value-add and waste-to-energy. It was a great company to work for, but after 10 years in Africa in total, I was ready for a return to Europe.
Working in South Africa was an interesting experience. It’s very developed, it had to become self-sufficient and develop its own infrastructure and industries, and in recent years, South Africa has become part of the global market.
Waste management and recycling is a global business with a lot of interaction between different markets, but the same principles of good practice apply everywhere.
What are the main focuses of your role at Eurocell?
My first responsibility is the infeed of our recycling factories, adding to that I also oversee all aspects of waste management and recycling, as well as logistics for recycling. There are two elements to waste management: the first covers the process in our own factories where we aim to achieve a reduction in the waste generated and to develop processes that enable us to reuse that same “waste”.
The second element relates to how we work with our clients in this area. When we supply a product to one of our fabricators, we then look to collect the packaging (LDPE) as per the EPR. For now, we are trialling the service with the hope to roll out to the Fabricator Network if successful.
What are the biggest challenges you foresee in recycling and waste management in construction?
Construction waste covers a range of areas and for us, the key is to develop the right mentality across the business.
Previously, the sector didn’t always consider the disassembly process when products are being designed and installed. But to maximise the amount we recycle, and the benefits of that, we as a business - and the sector as a whole - must consider this from the very outset of product design: how can each element be recycled, reuse or repurposed?
For every product now, we should undertake a life cycle assessment – this covers every element that is going into that product and what will happen to it at the end. The aim is to understand whether each of those elements can be reused or recycled – and if they can’t, is there a way to adapt the design so we don’t use them in the first place?
The aim is true circularity – many raw materials are in limited supply, so we must make the best possible and longer use of them. As a company, and as an industry, we must do all we can to close the loop - this is the biggest challenge from my perspective.
What are the biggest gains that can be achieved through recycling and waste management for the business?
On the one hand, the challenge for everyone is that these activities must be economically viable.
But ultimately, we must prioritise the planet and the people living in it. Being seen as a supplier that is committed in this area and acting as ethically as we can is crucial for the future of Eurocell.
Our aim is that every metre of profile we put into the market, we recycle. We want to close that loop. But beyond that, we want to offer that to clients too - if we can help them close the loop in their own business, that positions us well to win new clients and secure our own future.
What are your priorities for 2023?
We need to address the issue of PVC-U and landfill. In the past we did not have systems in place to recycle PVC-U – but now we do, with specialist companies doing this vital work. Even so, in the UK, approximately 20,000 tonnes a year of this material is still being sent to landfill.
I would like to see all PVC-U taken out of landfill, ideally through legislation. That would give us a surplus of feedstock for the UK market as well as ourselves to use – and cut the legacy of waste for future generations.
If you have any questions or would like more information then please get in contact: Sandra Gaspar, Head of Materials Management, firstname.lastname@example.org, 07587 039254