The tyre industry doesn’t seem like an obvious place to start when you are looking for examples of environmental good practice. But South Devon company Bandvulc has green policies at the heart of everything it does.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Britain’s largest commercial tyre retreader which was established in 1971, now a part of the larger Continental Tyres Group. Back in 1971 Bandvulc were retreading 30 tyres a week, and today Bandvulc produce a tyre every 3 minutes.
Bandvulc started out with a green mission – to retread tyres – and that ethos is still very important today, says Justin Holloway, Quality and Environmental Manager at the Lee Mill headquarters near Ivybridge.
“Some people think caring for the environment is just about turning a few things off and recycling. If there was no impact on the environment, we would never make a retread tyre, we would just throw them away. But the essence of what we are doing is stopping tyres going to landfill,” he says.
“It was unusual when the company started to be retreading tyres – I think it saved some pounds and pence and the benefit to the environment was almost accidental. Today we look at different ways of doing things to reduce our environmental impact, for example one of our waste products was the buffing dust created from removing the old rubber from worn tyres as we prepared them for retreading. It was about 30 tonnes a week, so we didn’t want to just dump it. It’s actually a really usable product and it is used in other rubber products, such as; playground matting, athletic tracks, equestrian arenas and much more, or it goes back into making tyres.
“We are quite proud of the fact that nothing goes into landfill from here. We work with local contractor in Exeter who have a zero to landfill policy – everything is completely recycled or incinerated. For us, about 70 per cent of our waste is recyclable.
“We have invested in energy-saving equipment and last year we set up an environmental team including people from the shop floor and the call centre. The first thing they wanted us to do is plant trees to offset our carbon footprint and we’ve done that.
“We are always trying to save energy and we use more efficient boilers,” says Justin. “We also have solar panels – factories are ideal for this because they have large roof spaces.
And customers appreciate the efforts too. “We get great feedback from customers,” says Justin. “We send them a detailed breakdown on the environmental savings, such as; each time a truck tyre is retreaded it saves 30kg of rubber, 20kgs of steel and 68 litres of oil. We can retread a tyre two or three times if it’s been well looked after. That’s a positive message.
“I’ve been in this role for six years and I find it so interesting. My kids do a lot of stuff about the environment at school and it’s great to share what we are doing.
“Even the guys on the shop floor have told me that, because of what we’ve been doing, they have been thinking more about recycling and energy-saving at home. People at Bandvulc are passionate about moving forward and being a top recycling company.”