Women make a huge contribution to the circular economy in operational roles, as managers, engineers, policymakers, campaigners, members of government and more. With the notable exception of Greta Thunberg, few are known to the public. Their work goes on quietly, improving the outlook for our planet. Today, International Women’s Day, we profile some of the women of Recycling Lives. Women who are vital to the company and the delivery of its reduce, reuse and recycle mission.
Recycling Lives is a leading player in the circular economy and a company that has grown rapidly since it was born from a small Preston based metal recyclers. The company operates UK wide now and has further expansion planned. Gerry Marshall, Chief Executive of the Group, provides some background to this and the role women play in the sector.
“Initiatives like International Women’s Day bring a needed focus to equality of sexes. We embrace that ethos as a company and are proud of our women employees. They add massive value to our business as operators, senior managers and just about every role we have.
As we expand into new regions and markets we’ll be taking on more employees so we expect to see a continuing shift to a more diverse workplace. All sexes, races and talents will be needed to deliver what our customers are increasingly demanding – a trusted circular economy partner with superb environmental, social and governance credentials.”
Expansion plans won’t phase Operations Manager, Beth Mason. Beth’s role within Recycling Lives has grown with the company. Starting out in a tendering role, she now manages over a hundred people and the efficient running of one of RL’s key facilities. A facility that contains one of the area’s largest and most advanced fragmentisers and an ever increasing downstream sorting and separation operation.
Beth comments: “Before I was involved in the recycling sector I started out as a graduate management trainee for a well-known supermarket chain. I used to pass the Preston RL plant every day on the way to work; I was always intrigued by all the cars being scrapped. I then heard about the great work the company does on the charity side and when a job position came up I applied. I wanted to be challenged in a new sector but also be part of an organisation that gives back to society.
Less than 3 years since I started with RL I’m now Operations Manager for Recycling Lives Recycling Park (RLRP). I was initially a little nervous about accepting the role as it was quite a change from my office position. Recycling Lives saw my potential though and helped me succeed. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else now.
It’s great that man and woman alike, we all pitch in to deliver and constantly improve what we do. We go home at night knowing we’ve done a vital job and also helped on social value and the environment.”
This can-do attitude and ability to effectively manage teams will be needed in the next few months as several of RL’s sites are upgraded through significant planned investment. This will include major capital equipment and spend on ELV operations to efficiently convert automotive shredder residue into energy, hydrogen and other useful products. This will take what’s already an efficient operation and through innovation reduce carbon footprint whilst increasing material recovery.
Now to the Recycling Lives Environmental Services part of the business. RLES handles construction and commercial wastes mainly, and over 50% of its staff are women. Amongst them are Alyson Westbrook and Katie Roxburgh, both key account managers, and in Customer Services, Alisha Miller.
Alyson has been with Recycling Lives for just under 2 years and was attracted to work with the company from a competitor due to the community good that’s behind all of Recycling Lives waste solutions.
She comments, “I love the social value we deliver through Recycling Lives Charity and my customers love it too. I remember when I first joined RL I was so impressed that social value was integral to everything. Our sites had a positive and inclusive vibe. I saw men and women from very mixed backgrounds with a common mission. It’s as impressive now as when I first saw it.”
Katie has been with RL a little longer, and continues, “I remember when I first started, over 10 years ago, there were less women than there are today. I always feel the company has valued women, but International Women’s Day is vital as equality still needs to be highlighted in our industry. An industry which historically has had too few women.”
Alisha has experience working with many waste partners and recycling customers. She enlarges on Katie’s sentiments.
“The recycling industry is getting more diverse, and women can add a different dynamic to a company. My team are all women, and we offer a great service as a team. I think sometimes we add a touch more empathy that our customers respond well to.”
In addition to those examples, through working closely with Recycling Lives Charity, we improve life and work skills of women. This is realised though rehabilitation and HMP Academy programmes. One such Academy is set up at HMP Styal, a female prison in Cheshire. In fact one of RL’s female operations staff, who came through RL Charity’s rehabilitation programme, returned to HMP Styal to work as supervisor at the Academy.
It’s through examples like this that Recycling Lives and Recycling Lives Charity add social value, improve the prospects for our environment and deliver a class leading circular economy waste solution. This all happens in large part to the women of Recycling Lives.