CSG: Same Place, Different World

Posted on http://www.csg.co.uk/blog on July 17th 2019

https://www.csg.co.uk/blog/same-place-different-world-40-years-at-cadishead

March 1979 was an uncertain time. Emerging from the ‘Winter of Discontent’, James Callaghan’s government had lost a confidence vote, forcing a General Election.  Airey Neave MP was killed by terrorists with a car bomb in the House of Commons car park, police in Yorkshire were searching for a killer they believed to be involved in the murder of ten women and economists were widely predicting that Britain was heading for a recession.  Appropriately, perhaps, the two number one singles in that month were ‘Tragedy’ by the Bee Gees and ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor.

Mike Wright today.  Photo: CSG

It was against this dispiriting backdrop that a 19 year-old called Mike Wright from Cadishead was at a crossroads of his own.  He’d left school with ambitions of a career in engineering but the fragile economy of the late seventies meant that apprenticeships in the car industry were few and far between.  A short spell working at the steelworks in Warrington was restricted by unhelpful train timetables which saw him struggle to arrive at work on time every day.  As a remedy to this problem, his mother arranged an interview for him at Lancashire Tar Distillers on Liverpool Road, where she worked as a secretary to one of the directors.

Mike recalls his interview with a smile:

“A man called Harold Rutter met me.  ‘Hello Mike, please take a seat.  Now, tell me, do you mind getting covered in [Northern word for excrement, rhyming with ‘white’]?’.  I said ‘No’ and he just said ‘Well, I’ll look forward to seeing you first thing, Monday morning.’”.

Clearly, It was, as the saying goes, a simpler time.

Mike’s first role was one of the ‘Yard Gang’, a group of six men whose job was to fill drums of creosote and liquid tar, ready for them to be collected by customers.  Another oil product, pitch, was produced at very high temperatures, which, once poured onto the floor and cooled, had to be broken up with jackhammers and shovelled into drums.  Unsurprisingly, health and safety standards in those days were not what they are today.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that risks were mostly assessed by the men advising each other simply to avoid repeating the actions that had maimed or killed previous colleagues.

In truth, the tar distillery operation was by then in the throes of a long decline.  The nearby Manchester Ship Canal had ceased to be a significant means of transport, all the machinery was driven by steam and an antique locomotive was still occasionally used to move materials from one part of the site to another.

After two years in the yard gang, Mike moved to the storage area, loading and unloading products for customers.  As custodian of the stored inventory for the next five years or so, it was also Mike’s job to assist whenever Her Majesty’s Customs & Excise came to visit, to check and meter the accuracy of the record-keeping.

By the 1990s, the Lane brothers had sold their stake in Lancashire Tar Distillers and the operation was renamed Lanstar by the new owners.  Amid the many changes around this time was the end of tar production and a focus on chemicals and waste treatment – and one change in particular was to be to Mike’s benefit.

“One Christmas, the chemical operators decided to go out for a few drinks at lunchtime.  When they came back, filled with ‘Dutch courage’, they demanded to see the bosses and ask for better pay.  The result was that they were all sacked and I got one of the jobs in the new team.”

This was a much more technical job that required constant monitoring as various materials were distilled, pressurised and mixed to make detergents and wetting agents.  Even so, there was little or no official documentation to cover the processes involved in working with a wide range of different materials, some quite hazardous.  Mike was tasked with creating a clear guide to each of the nine different major aspects of his role, a project that today, we might refer to as Process Mapping, which also began to inform the emerging health and safety requirements of working in such an environment.

His diligence and growing experience saw him promoted to foreman of the chemical operation at Lanstar.  Suddenly, he was on call 24 hours a day, dealing with incidents as and when they occurred.

His abilities were further recognised when he became Plant Manager of the Hydrocarbon section, in overall charge of the collection and storage of the waste oil being processed on the site.  In order to fulfil this role, Mike needed qualifications.  For five years, he studied in evenings and at weekends, passing sixteen exams and eventually earning a City & Guilds Level 3 qualification in Process Plant Operations.

Unfortunately for Mike, after all that effort, plummeting oil prices put a stop to the viability of Lanstar treating waste oil, resulting in the closure of its Hydrocarbon division.  Instead, Mike moved to the Solid Fixation Plant, supervising the different processes of making cake for landfill.

By this point, the new millennium had dawned and things were about to change again.  Lanstar had spent years trying to make the most of their investment in the former Lancashire Tar Distillers site but economic realities had made them an attractive takeover prospect and in 2000, the company was acquired by CSG.

Immediately, efficiencies were made, which included a number of redundancies.  Recalling the uncertainties of the time today, he’s quite sanguine: “I reckon I dodged redundancy a couple of times”.  It’s likely his wide experience was seen as an asset at the time as his new role of Shift Leader of a reduced workforce meant that he needed to be versatile enough to work on all the remaining aspects of the business.

Another stint followed on the ‘Solid Fix’ plant, while Mike worked to obtain a Diploma in IT, furthering his interest in the maintenance of the computers which were starting to become a central part of every workplace.

For the last four years, Mike has been tasked with overseeing CSG’s innovative nickel and copper reclamation processes, as the valuable metals are separated from scrap material using a process called electrowinning.  It all sounds deceptively simple but daily exposure to the hazards posed by electrical currents and sulphuric acid suggests it’s a job for someone with lots of experience of following safely procedures: “I watch what I’m doing.”, Mike says, modestly.  “Slower is usually safer.”

Despite (or perhaps because of) his seniority, Mike’s adherence to safety protocols has led to him receiving his fair share of ribbing from his colleagues.  One notorious gag that did the rounds for a while was this: ‘What do Michael Wright and Michael Jackson have in common? They both wear gloves for no reason!’

Despite the notability of the occasion, Mike recalls the ups and downs of his career over the last forty years with little ceremony.

“It all seems to have gone past pretty quickly.  I’ve always said that working here has been like playing a game of snakes and ladders.  I’ve been up a few ladders and down a few snakes – and now I’m happy to stay out of the way of them both.  I have looked at other jobs over the years but this is local and you’re never sure what might happen at a new place.  I look at some people who are always swapping jobs but it never seems to make a lot of sense to me.

“I’m happy where I am.”

The world has changed hugely in the last forty years.  Technological and social changes have seen our lives become hugely different from those in the late seventies – for better and, in some ways, for worse.  March 1979 was an uncertain time but despite the many improvements we’ve experienced in the interim, uncertainties about the future have always remained.  One lesson from Mike’s story is that, when he started work at Liverpool Road, Cadishead, even though so much in the world seemed like a tragedy, he did survive.

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CSG Says: Don’t Forget To Love The Environment, This Valentine’s Day

Posted on http://www.csg.co.uk/blog on February 14th 2019

https://www.csg.co.uk/blog/csg-says-dont-forget-to-love-the-environment-this-valentines-day

As any young lover will know, February 14th is St. Valentine’s Day, traditionally the day of the year where proclamations of love are offered to the object of our affection. Older lovers will also know this but some may appreciate the reminder not to let the day pass by unnoticed.

According to Wikipedia, 25 million cards are sent to commemorate the day in the UK alone – with around £1.3bn spent on cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts. That’s a lot of love, you might conclude – but, come February 15th, it becomes a whole lot of a waste.

Segregated properly, much of this waste needn’t cause much of a problem – card is not difficult to recycle and most plastics can be reclaimed using well-established processes. Even the flowers can be composted and put to use to encourage future bouquets to grow.

Unfortunately, we all know that some people try harder than others to segregate recyclable from general waste so inevitably, a proportion of all that extra card and plastic will not be recycled and will become needlessly added to landfill.

The problem of missed recycling increases as a result of the, well, sparkly nature of the event. Glitters and foils may make your offering more visually attractive to your intended but their complexity means they’re far less attractive to Mother Earth. As we’re becoming increasingly aware, the same is also true of black plastics – something that tends to make up the trays lurking inside most  chocolate boxes. The more environmentally-aware we’re becoming, the more we feel under pressure to cut back on the more obvious bits of eye-candy at times like this.

heart-700141_1920-1

Unfortunately, commercial pressures aren’t easily denied and before you can say, “Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle”, another controversial case of ‘consumer excess’ can arise. This year, that particular spotlight has fallen on Poundland for offering their ‘gift of nothing’ for £1, designed to elicit a cheap laugh for anyone who’s made this humble request on the lead up to the special day. Critics have described this example of, literally, packaging for its own sake as “a symbol of everything that is wrong with our view of the world”.

Why not display your sensitivity this year by making your own tokens of appreciation (minus the non-recyclable elements) instead of merely consuming more resource-hungry bought versions? For additional environmental kudos, you could even repurpose the materials from previous uses – or if that sounds too risky, you could ensure that the paraphernalia you use can itself be repurposed once the day has passed.

It may all sound boring and a little old-fashioned but perhaps a simple gesture like cooking a special meal or just watching a film together might be much more appreciated, better signalling your true feelings. Whether it leads to more enjoyable Valentine’s evening or not, the environment will certainly feel more loved, as a result!

CSG: Stay Connected – We Challenge You!

Posted on http://www.csg.co.uk/blog on May 10th 2018

https://www.csg.co.uk/blog/stay-connected-challenge

If you’re in business, you’ll probably be aware of the impending changes to data privacy law (known as GDPR), about to take effect. You may also have noticed lots of companies have recently started to ask you to continue to opt-in to their emails. If this is all news to you and you don’t know about GDPR, it might be a good time to read up about how it will affect your business.

Basically, the new law effectively resets many of the permissions we currently have to hold and use your contact data. If we’ve been emailing you for many years, it’s possible that we’re holding your contact data without all the permissions that GDPR now requires – which means we won’t be able to contact you from May 25th without good reason to do so, or your given permission.

Obviously, we don’t want to lose contact with any of our valued customers so between now and then, like many other companies, we’ll be encouraging as many of our contacts as possible to re-subscribe to our emails. We apologise in advance if it looks like we’re over-doing the reminder activity but we expect every other business to be doing the same – and we’ll all have to stop doing it by May 25th!

In order to keep receiving a our important industry and CSG related information via email, all you have to do is visit our Contacts page and fill in the brief form, confirm you’re not a robot and click on the red button. To make it interesting, we challenge you to see if you can do the whole thing in under sixty seconds. Are you up for that?

Ready? Hover on the link just below…aaand…go!

Keep me subscribed to CSG’s emails!

CSG: The Train to Greater Competence is Now Arriving

Posted on http://www.csg.co.uk/blog on May 3rd 2018

https://www.csg.co.uk/blog/train-greater-competence-now-arriving

CSG have been working in field of waste removal for over 80 years but even that proud figure is dwarfed when you compare it to the hundreds of years of combined personal experience of all the people who make up our team. The greater the level of regulation and expectation imposed upon our industry, the more valuable this expertise has become. Almost without realising it, we’ve amassed a huge knowledge base that consistently adds extra value to our operation. Now, for the first time, we’re going to make it commercially available in the form of operator training.

Darren Bennett and his team are our Service and Performance Auditors and between them, have decades of time served in the field, encompassing all aspects of day-to-day experience, from HGV driving to spill handling and a variety of Health & Safety considerations. Not only are they CSG’s in-house driver training team, they are also our own internal auditors, checking out the processes a driver follows on a given day.

Much of what the CSG fleet achieves is as a result of the patient training and diligent attention to detail that Darren, Les Denham and Chris Hanrahan are able to provide. For a reasonable rate, all that expertise can now be made available to anyone who wishes their team to have it.

As you’d expect, the very process of training others has itself been something that we’ve trained at – it sort of defeats the whole argument for training to suggest we’ve suddenly become able to do this competently, overnight. For many years, we’ve offered a range of bespoke training sessions both internally as part of our wider service to our clients. Now, we believe this capability is something we can offer to new or existing clients as a stand-alone service.

Darren has frequently noticed the the value of extra training benefits all concerned – not just with those people being trained:

“Through offering training to our clients over the years, we’ve often found that greater understanding, not just of the people we train, but of the others in the organisation who they share that knowledge with, can lead to a closer working relationship and the opportunity to work more beneficially with each other”

If you’re interested in harnessing the expansive knowledge and clear delivery offered by Darren and his team, please contact us at technicalsales@csg.co.uk or call us on 0800 048 0622.

Willacy: A Crude Warning to Diversify?

Posted on willacyoil.com on April 20th 2018

https://willacyoil.com/2018/04/20/crude-warning-diversify/

“…Oil…Black Gold. Texas Tea.” – maybe you’ll remember the TV show that included that line in its opening credits.

Back in the monochrome 1960s when ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ was made, the world seemed a much simpler place: find oil, make millions, never need to worry again. Even twenty years later, we were still being enthralled by all the scheming and back-biting at the Oil Baron’s Ball in ‘Dallas’. For most of the last century, the very mention of oil in the media has usually been as a shorthand for money, power and glamour.

Larry_Hagman_as_JRToday, as we all know, when it comes to oil, there’s a lot more to be considered than just the trappings it brings. Emissions are monitored as never before and the quest to replace it with more sustainable energy sources has become the new frontier for the century ahead.

For that reason, oil has entered a phase in which it expects to fall from the favour it once had, a process that’s already beginning to be mapped out. Last year, the UK government announced it would ban the sales of all new cars, powered by petrol or diesel, from the year 2040. This is a date which may still conjure images of floating buildings and flying cars, reminiscent of that other big hit of 1962, ‘The Jetsons’ but when you do the maths, it’s a different story. 2040 is only 22 years away – which is probably less than the amount of time it’s been since we last saw repeats of Jed, Jethro, Granny and Elly May on terrestrial TV.

More pressing is the recent announcement from the World Bank that it will cease to finance fossil fuel extraction from 2020. Forget the undated, stereotyped “future” that old TV shows used to promise us, of silver jumpsuits and Moonbases, this is a date that’s more or less in the here and now. Inevitably, similar deadlines from other regulatory bodies will follow and many will have a similarly short horizon.

It all adds up to a warning to all those who’ve defined themselves by their involvement in the oil industry that the heady days personified by the Clampetts and the Ewings are starting to seem as dated as the width of JR’s lapels.

Naturally, at Willacy, a company once inextricably linked with the oil industry, it’s clear that our growth is unlikely to arrive as a result of us depending solely upon oil. While we will of course continue to provide all the services we’re well known for to those in the oil industry, we have to recognise it’s a sector that many people may feel is one whose days are numbered – even if that number is still in the many thousands.

Over the years, we’ve developed a number of unrivalled technologies and techniques to survey, treat and rejuvenate oil infrastructure in Britain and many other countries around the world. In recent years, we’ve increasingly transferred that capability to water-based applications. Our recent development of sonar-driven tank surveying is a prime example of oil-based technology being adapted for use in water-based environments.

With our competence in the aqueous sphere established, the door is opened to other establishments that store and process matter of various descriptions. Already, we’re working with abattoirs and other food industry sites. Research from The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) suggests there are now over 250 sites in the UK where food waste can be processed to provide biofuel and other resources. The growth and proliferation of this sector, still in the early stages of its development contrasts markedly with the consolidation and concentration of the much more mature oil industry.

As we’ve learned from various instances over the years where our services have occasionally been required in other fields, while the medium (the type of stuff in the tanks) may change, many of the problems and processes involved – the basic practicalities of getting the job done – are exactly the same. Different substances may alter the operational parameters but fundamentally, it’s not that different a task – if you know what you’re doing.

Aside from maximising our potential by applying our skills to other, more abundant, less restrictive markets, we’re actually making the most of the knowledge and capability that we have – and that others struggle to match. In modern parlance, it was indeed a ‘no-brainer’ for Willacy to diversify in this way but even so, is there a helpful sign, a handy lesson from history to encourage us in this strategy?

Interestingly, ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ (1993) and ‘Dallas’ (2012), were both re-booted many years after the height of their success and in each series, the main characters, Jed Clampett and JR Ewing were relieved of their fortune, facing an uncertain future, without the security of a status based on oil. Could that have been a warning, perhaps? Neither sequel did well in terms of reviews or ratings but you can’t help wondering if the storylines at least got that bit right…

CSG: Happy Xmas (2017 is over)

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on December 18th 2017

https://www.csg.co.uk/blog/happy-christmas-2017-where-did-it-go

And so, as 2017 draws to a close, the time comes, once again, to wish you a Merry Christmas, to reflect on the year just gone and to look ahead to what may lie instore in the New Year.

With the festive season upon us, there’s also the more practical consideration of our Christmas opening times – which can be found here…

2017 has been another busy year, here at CSG, with more customers served, more volumes moved and more satisfaction with our services than ever before. It was a year that saw the launch of ‘The Hart of Waste’, the second edition of the book, which contains the official history and current portrait of CSG. It was also a year in which we strongly identified the four pillars that make our brand so strong: Customers, Heritage, Innovation and People.

More awards came our way in 2017, including the ‘Best Use of Technology’ in the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Awards.

Merry-Christmas-2018-3

We’ve seen many great strides in the CSG family of businesses, not least the opening of our new, ground-breaking sewage treatment plant in Worcester. We’ve also seen the addition of more Oil Monster trucks, covering a greater portion of the UK. At Willacy, we’ve seen a greater emphasis on overseas work and a move to apply their market-leading oil-based lagoon survey technology to water-based applications.

We’ve made donations to numerous charitable organisations and made meaningful contributions to the communities in which we operate. We’ve continued to develop the careers of the hundreds of people we’re proud to call colleagues and we’ve supported our local economies wherever we can.

In 2018, we plan to do it all again – with some significant advances along the way. In the New Year, we’ll launch the new CSG website, featuring a host of extra information and functionality – together with a brand new corporate video, to help spread the word of our accomplishments even wider.

Until then, it only remains for us to show our appreciation for your support and custom this year, to thank you for reading our blog and wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy, prosperous New Year!

Yours sincerely,

Everyone in the CSG family

CSG: Making Your Waste Work

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on December 11th 2017

https://www.csg.co.uk/blog/making-your-waste-work

You may have read about the way we’ve defined the four main aspects of CSG, our brand pillars – and perhaps read more about two of them, Customer Service and Heritage. In this, the third of the series, the focus falls on another of our pillars: Innovation.

Most companies will claim to be innovative and, while many are, few will be as indoctrinated by the principle as we are – and with good reason. Since the early 1970s, when dumping of hazardous materials led to major regulations of the waste industry, environmental legislation has been made ever stronger. While we can agree this is to all our benefit, such stringent rules have forced those who make waste their business to think differently about their processes, their capabilities, even the very point of their existence.

In such conditions, innovation became essential for CSG to survive and flourish over the last 45 years, which is why it’s something we hold dear to this day. Here are a few innovations we’ve recently made:

Twenty years ago, one of our subsidiary companies (Willacy Oil Services) developed a sonar tool that charts levels of sediment in oil tanks, ensuring that the costly process of emptying and cleaning them is only done when absolutely necessary. This year, to enable diversification, we have been able to adapt this technology to water-based tanks and lagoons. It gives visibility of the extent of an inevitable problem, which allows customers to decide when (and when not) to commit to the cost of a full tank or lagoon clean, a unique selling point.

Our new sewage treatment plant in Worcester was uniquely designed to minimise manual effort and use a combination of technologies to ensure that the raw sewage is processed almost fully automatically into water that can be discharged back into a water course. Only the removal of solid ‘cake’ matter is now done manually. A more efficient process means fewer overhead costs, which can be passed on to the customer with a lower price.

We have developed unique and innovative processes for recovering precious metals from aqueous wastes including Nickel, Copper, Silver and Aluminium. We’ve added a service that uses industrial washing machines to clean ‘hazardous laundry’ – oily rags, wipes and spill mats for our customers – to avoid them being illegally disposed of. We also offer a fuel polishing service, in which contaminated fuel oils are passed through our specialist rig to remove the contaminants and return fuel that will not pose a threat to any pumps, engines or generators it is intended for.

All this innovation is a great way to offer unique or unbeatable services to our customers and, as you’d expect, innovation never stops, which means that our most important innovations are those we haven’t yet implemented.

We’ve also learned that it’s not enough to be innovative merely in the services we offer. Perhaps more importantly, we must also embrace innovation in the way we carry out our services, to increase both our capability and our efficiency – innovations like these:

Each of our hundreds of tankers has a device fitted to allow communication with Head Office. This allows jobs and routes to be sent to each driver to ensure more jobs are completed with the lowest-possible mileage – which means more happy customers and a significant saving on running costs. This fine level of control of our logistics gives us the opportunity to encourage online bookings for collections, something our Oil Monster site has already started to offer.

The trucks themselves are ‘smarter’, with driving data able to be monitored centrally. Greater visibility of driving style encourages safer, more efficient driving which also saves fuel and ensures a greater degree of Corporate Social Responsibility.

Innovation isn’t just a device to maximise opportunity. Our Health & Safety Manager Kevin Mooney recently demonstrated how it’s also a great way to reduce threat; his Manhole Safety Barrier is a fascinating invention, which may see a wider application than just CSG’s requirements.

Email, social media and web-based technologies are no longer considered ‘new’ but the way we ask our domestic customers for feedback, track the usage of our site and ensure we address the issues they raise is an innovation in our ability to respond effectively, enabled wholly by the Internet.

Finally, the very obsession and desire to constantly innovate are vital to CSG’s core strategy, driving most of our decisions to acquire subsidiaries and allow them to reach their potential.

We may think innovation is something we’re good at but it appears we’re not alone. Embracing any technology requires innovative thinking and earlier this year, we were delighted to win the ‘Best Use of Technology’ award by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, making CSG one of the seven finalists in the country.

As with any award, nice as they are to win, the real prize comes in the popularity and commercial success that an award-winning capability can attract. In future, we expect the demands of best practice to continue to increase processing costs for everyone in the waste industry – our continued success depends on our ability to maximise efficiency and minimise wasted materials and effort. Today, possibly more than ever before, our future depends on our ability to keep innovating.

CSG: Treatment and Recovery

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on September 26th 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/treatment-and-recovery/

If you’ve spent any time involved with the Waste industry, it’s a fairly safe bet that you’ll be familiar with the Waste Hierarchy.  As long ago (or as relatively recently, depending upon your viewpoint) as the 1970s, the time came for waste to cease to be thought of as something you could just ‘throw away’ – which usually meant simply burying it or burning it (and burying what was left).  Disposal as a default method had finally become seen as unsustainable.

In 1975, the EU – or the EEC as it was, back then – announced a directive, which sought to rank the options available to minimise the creation and impact of waste.  Like most directives, its guideline status meant that it could easily be ignored and, by and large, it was.  Fourteen years later, the idea was revisited and drawn up into a hierarchy of management actions, to encourage its more widespread use.

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At the dawn of the 1990s, the concept of recycling began to gain some favour – where conditions allowed – with notable successes in campaigns to use recycled aluminium drinks cans or literature printed on recycled paper but these were examples of ‘soft’ social pressure rather than ‘hard’ legislation taking effect on areas that were, technically speaking, arguably ‘easy wins’.

Only by the turn of the millennium were the principles espoused by the hierarchy finally drafted into UK law, a quarter of a century after the concept was first proposed.  To put that into perspective, when in 1998, ‘Bob the Builder’ was first broadcast, encouraging children to “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle”, the mantra was still officially nothing more than an idealistic guideline.

Of course, in the years since then, legal expectations and waste practices have changed almost beyond recognition; the industry has had to re-invent itself from one that largely just ‘got rid of’ waste to one that was willing to go to ever-greater lengths to find a way to reclaim it in one way or another.  The relative inertia of the 25 years beforehand has been well and truly washed away with a growing tide of ever-more stringent waste regulations in the 17 years of the 21st century.

Jen Cartmell, our Operations Manager, based at our Cadishead facility explains further:

“Higher landfill taxes not only had the effect of calming the demand for simple disposal but they also encouraged operators to develop alternative solutions and created the conditions for them to invest in those alternatives.  That, combined with the higher standards expected of those who make money from waste has led to a far more professional industry today.”

Following on from those ‘easy wins’ of the 1990s, the move to expand the scope of treatment and recovery has led to ever-more intricate processes to extract reclaimed materials in one way or another.  Inevitably, the ubiquity and the residual value of oil has led to oil recovery being one of the most lucrative areas in this burgeoning sector, a logical development reflected in CSG’s strategy by our acquisition of Willacy Oil Services in 2015.

With the industry’s successes in extracting waste oil for re-refinery, together with the growing capability for separating precious metals from waste streams to create a ‘circular economy’, it’s tempting to think of waste treatment and recovery as a modern-day form of alchemy, the mythical ancient art of turning base metals into gold.  For centuries, many cultures have tried in vain to find a process to do just that. Are we, figuratively speaking, now at that point with a large proportion of our waste?

A qualified chemist, Jen is quick to point out the limitations. Treatment processes are vital to recovering the material but they’re only one part of the equation – and very often, the easiest part.

“In order to have a truly viable treatment and recovery capability, you need three things. First, a guaranteed supply of a particular waste stream, in which there is little variability of supply or composition; second a reliable, process which efficiently allows the material to be recovered in a re-usable state; and third a market for that recovered material.  Even if you’ve mastered the recovery process itself, if you can’t guarantee a steady stream to apply it to, you can’t make the investments needed to operate it and, obviously, if it’s too difficult to sell what you’ve recovered, it’s clearly not an economically viable proposition.”

Simply put, even if you’ve worked out the ‘how’ to treat and recover, you always have to be able to prove the ‘why’, the commercial incentive to actually do it.  Such pragmatism can seem rather negative but only because it flies in the face of the conventional view that re-cycling is akin to a magic process, capable of solving the world’s consumption needs.  As consumers, we’re invited to buy into that rather simplistic viewpoint because it increases the effectiveness of those ‘easy win’ examples like aluminium and paper.  If you look at these two cases objectively, they’re both perfect examples of the three-stage rule Jen explained – offering a steady supply of waste and a strong demand for the reclaimed matter.  Particularly in the case of paper, if a more digital world significantly reduced the need to buy as much of it, there would be far less incentive for anyone to recycle it.

There are some great examples of advances being made to broaden the principle in other areas – fly ash into bricks and desulphurisation gypsum from power stations into plasterboard.  Here at CSG, we’ve been able to develop commercially-viable methods to treat and recover tanalised timber and recover nickel from aqueous wastes, painstaking methods of recovery to sell to a market that was previously less well-supplied.  Even so, in both cases, the reclaimed products currently struggle to match the success of our subsidiary J&G Environmental which takes large volumes of rejected egg boxes and merely shreds them in order to make them a valuable animal bedding product.  Once again, it proves the process of recovery isn’t everything.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the growth of treatment and recovery is the fact that it’s still in its infancy.  As an industry, we’re only a couple of decades into even entertaining the idea that waste materials can be reclaimed and re-sold – and you could argue that so much has already been achieved.  Future development will not be without its difficulties – Jen is concerned that the suspension of the Environment Agency’s Definition of Waste panel is currently a disincentive for many companies to invest heavily in treatment and recovery research – but history teaches us that commercial imperative is not to be resisted for long.  There are some intriguing areas of opportunity, should the will be there to exploit them, with phosphorous suggested by experts as a particularly lucrative example.  Similarly, a means of more finely treating the waste water system to harness microscopic traces of gold that wash from our jewellery could represent a big enough prize for someone to attempt it.

To take advantage of such imaginative thinking, you have to decide what could be achievable if anything was possible.  Having identified what’s achievable, you then have to decide how you make the technique possible.  Whether in the name of science, discovery or commerce, such ‘blue-sky’ thinking has always been a potent driving force.  It’s a sign of how far the waste industry has come in a relatively short time: two generations ago, it was little more than a dirty job for hardened souls, in two generations’ time, it really could be the preserve of alchemists.

CSG: Brand Pillar 1 – Customer Service

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on September 14th 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/brand-pillar-1-customer-service/

You may have read of our recent efforts to define the strongest parts of what makes CSG what it is. After much discussion, we arrived at four distinct elements, what we like to call our ‘brand pillars’ because, together, they hold up everything that CSG does.

With this in mind, we’ve decided to dedicate an entire blogpost to each of the four pillars and first up – arguably in order of importance – is ‘Customer Service’. You may think the way a company treats its customers and responds to them is quite an obvious contributor to their success but if it’s so obvious, why is it that so many of us experience poor service so frequently? What, then, makes it such an indelible part of what CSG does – and why are we so proud of it?

With CSG operating across such a broad range of customer types, the ways in which we’re able provide excellent service can also vary enormously. For example, in the case of our biggest accounts, with huge volumes involved and clarity of purpose vital, the levels of service we promise are often written into our contracts and tenders. Perhaps a more acid test of our ability to offer an unbeatable level of service is in the business-to-consumer (B2C) environment, where we’re usually asked to react quickly to very specific requests by a wide range of consumers, often with very different levels of expectation.

With that in mind, perhaps the best person to ask is Dean Hough, our Telesales Manager, responsible for providing a fast, professional response to all our domestic and small business sewage collection services. He’s the man who’s there to ensure a very specific flavour of ‘CS’ is present within CSG. A veteran of a number of call centres throughout his career, he’s now charged with the task of keeping our B2C customers happy, every time they contact us. How do his objectives here differ from other places he’s worked at?

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Dean Hough, Telesales Manager.  Photo: CSG

“You could say it’s essentially the same requirement: handling calls efficiently in order to make sales but in reality, it’s nothing like anything I’ve ever done before” he says, with disarming candidness. “We tend to have a very distinct type of customer with very specific requirements, which are a world away from those of most call centre-based businesses. For that reason, it would be totally wrong for us simply to copy the techniques of even the most successful call centres. Everything we do has to be right for CSG and the customers we’re here to serve.

It’s true that, due to the vagaries of demographics, our base of domestic sewage customers (owners of houses with septic tanks) tend to be, on average, much older than a standard cross-section of the community. Similarly, such properties tend to be rather more remote than usual and that can uniquely influence the conversation with the customer.

“We’ll generally take maybe five calls a day in which we’re just asked for advice about the customer’s system, its upkeep or when it was last emptied. There’s not always an obvious path to ‘convert’ the call into a sale so we don’t necessarily push the conversation in that direction. It’s important that we help when we’re asked but it’s enough that we’re happy to leave it at that and only ‘make the sale’ when the customer is ready. That sort of thinking would be inconceivable in other industries I’ve worked in, like software or insurance, but what they would feel is right for them isn’t necessarily right for CSG and our customers.”

That’s not to say we ignore the influences of so-called ‘best practice’ of the whole call centre sector. Unsurprisingly, there are areas of Dean’s experience that have been incorporated and tailored to the way CSG deliver service to customers.

“Like any professional organisation, we still have processes and targets but we always ensure they’re done in a completely different tone, with a much lighter touch than the more hardened, clinical style that most people would associate with telephone-based customer contact. We’re very aware that to some of our customers, a call to our sales team may be their only conversation that day.

“Our team come from a variety of backgrounds, not necessarily just sales.  We find a good grounding within the waste industry helps to foster an understanding of and therefore competence in a subject in which they’re being asked to provide assistance.  On top of that, before anyone ever takes a call, we provide a fair amount of training and even arrange for them to spend time out on the road, accompanying our tanker drivers on their rounds.  We’ve long known that if you’ve seen at first hand the day-to-day issues that can create problems, it’s much easier to give the right advice when, for example, access to a septic tank is difficult.  It’s pretty simple, really – you have a better appreciation of what can go wrong if you’ve already seen it in action.  The more appreciation my team has, the less assumption there is – and usually, assumptions lead to problems.”

It’s fair to say that even the briefest look at CSG’s history will show that customer service has always been a strong part of our culture and ethos.  As the person charged with upholding, even improving that long-standing commitment, does he find it a daunting prospect?

“I wouldn’t say so.  I don’t feel under any extra pressure just because CSG’s standards are already so high.  I’m a perfectionist so it’s more the case that my aims and CSG’s are exactly the same.  I don’t think it’s a bad thing to admit that we’re not perfect (yet) and there’s lots of things I’d like to do to keep improving.  I think the fact that CSG is still a family-owned business is a huge reason for its focus on customer service and I’d say that, while it might be easier for me to suggest lots of easier improvements to a less customer-focused business, the flip side is that I’d expect to find it harder to get the backing I’d need to make those improvements.  Here at CSG, that very strong existing focus means that there’s also a much greater willingness to support me in this role – and I find that very motivating.”

Customer service seems a simple enough concept but it’s one that frequently seems to find itself complicated and distorted to meet the eye of the beholder.  What’s the simplest way to define good service, in order to ensure that it can always be assured?

“I think, at its heart, customer service is really a question of empathy – the ability to know what the other person ultimately wants – in some cases, even before they do.  Of course, people are all different so it’s difficult to demonstrate empathy until you know enough about the person, their personality, what situation they’re in, what’s motivating them at that moment.  Even that’s pretty meaningless if there’s nothing you can do with that insight so it’s necessary not to be too governed by hard and fast rules.  Experienced people are always an asset, as is diversity within the team, increasing the ability to view a situation from more than one angle.”

What about internally?  Isn’t there a danger that very existence of a team specialising in customer service can have the adverse effect of implying to the rest of the company that it’s a consideration they can then more easily ignore?

“Whenever we need to take corrective action, we know we need to show empathy not just to the paying customer but also to our internal customers – all the colleagues who rely on each other in order to get the job done well.  Ultimately, we’re all on the same side, trying to achieve the same goal so if something has gone wrong and needs to be put right; failure is failure and we have to take ownership of that.  That sort of terrible side-effect doesn’t happen when there’s good communication and everyone is dealing with each other in the way they would expect to be dealt with.  We often say we’re ‘Working together for you’ and it’s not just a strapline – we really are.”

In the end, for all the well-intentioned ideas, the refusal to limit to ‘wrap-up’ time (the amount of time spent talking at the end of a call, after the sale) or the removal of counter-productive individual incentives, numbers will still prove the success of the strategy.  Customer retention rates, longevity, average life-time value are all longer-term measures of customer behaviour that almost define the very point of offering an unbeatable ability to meet and exceed expectations, consistently.   Customer service is not really about what it achieves today but what it continues to enable in future.  In an era where we’re used to demanding and delivering instant gratification, it’s worth remembering that its true value is one that arrives very steadily, over time.

CSG: Coming Soon… A Site to Behold

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on August 15th 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/coming-soon-a-site-to-behold/

At the recent launch of the new edition of the CSG book, ‘The Hart of Waste’, much was made of the fact that there’s a new CSG website in production – including a snazzy new corporate video! We thought it was time to ask around and find out more. Here’s what we learned…

First of all, the new website is on schedule and is expected to ‘go live’ “before the end of the year”. The edition of the site it replaces will have been in use for over seven years – which is a long time in ‘website years’. If popular myth has it that that you multiply a dog’s age by seven to arrive at a ‘dog years’ age, then perhaps it’s fair to raise the factor to fourteen in the case of websites. Whichever way you dress it up, the conclusion is the same: the site is in need of an update.

Since 2010, there’s been an explosion in web browsing from hand-held devices and websites today simply have to look as good and behave as well, whether you’re using a smartphone, a tablet or a desktop computer to browse it. It’s therefore no surprise that the new site will be ‘responsive’ – i.e. the site responds to the screen requirements of each device used to view it – unlike the 2010 edition.

In an industry such as ours where so much of what we do is guided by changes in legislation and process, there’s an almost constant stream of updates to keep on top of, which means that the new site will contain even more information. At last count, we expect there to be around 15,000 words, spread across over a hundred pages but who knows how much this could rise to?

It’s not all about the written word, though. We’re very mindful of the stats we’ve seen that emphasise the value of multimedia elements such as imagery and video on keeping web browsers interested (or ‘engaged’ to use the tech term), which is why we’ve spent so much time and effort creating and capturing what we do in order to present ourselves as professionally and as engagingly as we can.

As we’re already doing with our Oil Monster site, we’re keen to harness the interactive power of the web. Instead of the site merely being a means to put information before the visitor, there will be the facility to order and enquire directly to our Sales team, via a simple online form. You won’t just be able to ‘read’ or ‘watch’ – you’ll be able to ‘do’!

Finally (well, probably not finally, but this is the last of the information we could get at this stage), the new site will be heavily influenced by the recent branding work we’ve done and will be designed to reinforce the ‘four pillars’ of what we believe CSG to embody: Customer Service, People, Innovation and Heritage. It’s no surprise that, having put so much effort into defining what we stand for so strongly, we should then reinforce those principles in our website – so that’s what we’ll do!

We expect there’ll be other improvements too but that’s all we can tell you for now. As with all these things, the number one question you’ll have is “when?” but with all the work involved, that’s always the hardest to confirm. “Later this year” is the best answer we could get but you can be sure that as soon as we have more specific information than that, we’ll share it with you!

Watch this space….

CSG: The Hart Of Waste

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on July 12th 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/the-hart-of-waste/

The great and the good of CSG gathered in a Hampshire hotel recently to celebrate another landmark occasion in the company’s long and illustrious history.

The cause for celebration was the launch of CSG’s second book, ‘The Hart of Waste’, an updated history of the company founded by Edgar ‘Bunny’ Hart in 1934. As with the previous book on CSG, ‘Waste Matters’, published in 2002, the new book was written by Nigel Watson, an accomplished writer and corporate historian.

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The guests gathered at the Solent Hotel, close to CSG’s Fareham head office at the end of the day.  The fact that our AGM had been held that afternoon meant that many important stakeholders could be present.  One such luminary was CSG’s former Managing Director, Ken Pee, who’d flown in from his home in Cyprus for the occasion.

After a convivial drinks reception, we were invited into the function room and entered a room dressed with CSG branding, a projector and screen and, of course, a table groaning under the weight of numerous copies of the new book.  Many guests filtered into the theatre seating area while others chose to stand towards the back of the room while they waited for proceedings to start.

First to speak was Heather Hart, CSG’s Chair and Bunny’s daughter, who welcomed the assembled throng and explained how it was that this second book came to be commissioned – a conversation over a glass of wine, on holiday with her sister, Hilary.

In historical terms, it may seem that fifteen years is a barely significant interlude but such is the pace of change in all areas of life, a mere decade and a half seems like half a lifetime away, particularly in some aspects of life. For example, a quick Google search uncovers an article in which 2002 was predicted to be “the year of Broadband Britain” – which means most people were still accessing the internet by dial-up modems. In fact, Google itself was only four years old, back then and as likely to be the search engine of choice for most people as Yahoo, Excite or Alta Vista – remember them? Facebook didn’t even exist (Mark Zuckerburg enrolled at Harvard in 2002 on his way to creating thefacebook, as it was once known) so social networking and social media were little more than concepts. It really was a very different world.

In the world of waste, the pace of change has been just as bewildering. A veritable slew of legislation in the last fifteen years has led to innumerable disposal practices that were commonplace in 2002 becoming outlawed – each requiring a more professional, more regulated technique of treatment. It may be ‘only fifteen years’ but in truth, it’s easily enough to warrant an entire re-telling of the official story of CSG.

Having given some insight into the creation of the book and with all the right people thanked for their participation and assistance, Heather passed the microphone to Neil Richards, CSG’s ebullient Managing Director. Neil paid particular tribute to the unique way that CSG is run, a reliance on self-sufficiency and a faith in old-fashioned values that encourages a sense of belonging and shared purpose amongst all who join the business.

Neil referred to the very distinct culture at CSG, a careful mix of the familiarity of family businesses with the professionalism of large corporations. It’s certainly no accident that the new book carefully inter-weaves pages of every element of the current CSG team all the way along the company’s timeline of events throughout its 170-odd pages and it perfectly reflects Neil’s words.

The evening was rounded off by a sneak preview of CSG’s new company video (more on that, later this year) before the books on display were given to each of those present. Many even took the opportunity to ask Heather to sign their copy – which she was delighted to do.

As the conversations carried on around the room and into the night, there was a clear sense that the launch of a book charting a company’s history was, far from being merely a documentary of the past, more a starting point to the next chapter in the remarkable story of success that all started with one man’s dream.

CSG: Putting a Good Spin on Wastewater

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on July 3rd 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/putting-a-good-spin-on-wastewater/

Centrifugal force is one of the more entertaining laws of physics. Many of us have swung a bucket of water around our heads (hopefully, without spilling any) in an attempt to impress small children – indeed you may even remember it being demonstrated to you when you were young. Later on, you may have been amazed to watch the ‘wall of death’ motorcycle stunt in which a rider emerges unscathed after riding a motorbike around the vertical wall of a circular pit.

For die-hard devotees, there’s even a fairground ride, the fearsome ‘Hearts & Diamonds’, where brave souls stand unharnessed in a giant circular cage, to be whizzed around such that the entire cage can be rotated to almost 90 degrees. The sight of 50 or so screaming people seemingly stuck to the walls of an oversized washing machine drum is something that tends to live long in the memory, acting as a firm inspiration either to ‘definitely’ or ‘never’ try it for yourself. Either way, most people would agree that watching it is more fun than your average physics lesson.

When it’s not thrilling funfair riders on a Saturday night, centrifugal force has a day job – and it’s one that we really couldn’t do without: separating solid matter from water. Many industries use large quantities of water to carry out a number of processes, whether it’s washing potatoes or to apply a glossy coating to some types of paper. Having completed its process, the watery substance can’t simply be flushed away. It needs to have the solids removed – which has the secondary benefit that the water is left in a re-usable state.

How do you reliably remove potato earth or kaolin paper gloss (or a multitude of other substances) once it’s been mixed with water? You’ve guessed it – a centrifuge, albeit quite a specific type, much more sophisticated than the ‘washing machine drum’ you might initially imagine.

With such a significant demand and in so many places, it’s no surprise that there’s a need for a fleet of the things, with different capabilities and all able to visit your site in order to do their thing. In recent years, CSG have developed their oil-based expertise and have become a leading exponent of cleansing and clarifying fluids in the water-based world.

CSG’s selection of mobile centrifuges are available for hire, lease or even purchase. They can take upto 98% of the solid matter out of its watery suspension, which as a minimum, leads to its more efficient disposal or, in some cases, enables the only way to dispose legally.

With throughput rates of 20,000 litres up to 60,000 litres per hour achievable with some machines, they can guzzle through some serious quantities of sludge – and very often, they need to, as some customers require entire lagoons to be cleaned. Lagoon-clearance is a significant undertaking that may even require a roving dredger or a floating pontoon to literally suck the matter from the lagoon floor and pump it to the centrifuge at the waterside to separate it from the water.

With so many different kinds of application, surely there are limits to the types of location that such sensitive machinery can be taken to. Not so, says Pete Smith, CSG’s Technical Sales expert:

“Many of our most remote locations are at drinking water treatment sites, which can only be reached down quite winding lanes. Our biggest machines are transported on 30-foot trailers so if the lanes are too narrow or if there isn’t room to turn the vehicle around, we can send smaller systems, which will fit in the back of a van.”

The equipment is designed well enough that it can be operated with minimal training, although an experienced CSG operator is an optional extra to whoever wishes to hire it. Pete is keen to point out that ‘cleaning’ water does not make it potable, suitable for drinking, merely clean enough to be regarded as re-usable or fit for discharge.

Whatever the type of customer, their application and whatever the specific type of solid matter, CSG seem to have a centrifuge and a method for the job. While techniques can change significantly if the matter is coarser (grains of sand or grit) or finer (dissolved powders), the primary principle is always the power of separation afforded by centrifugal force, perhaps also the most environmentally-friendly law of physics.

CSG: How a Septic Tank Really Works

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on February 9th 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/how-a-septic-tank-really-works/

You may not have given much thought to the way your septic tank works – which is fine as long as it is working – but knowing just a little can help you ensure that it remains in good order for many years to come.

Okay, here’s the really basic information, which most people already know:

  • Human waste contains harmful bacteria and can be a means of spreading viruses. Throughout human history – and in developing countries today – the source of some of the greatest threats to life has come from diseases, such as cholera and typhoid, which are transmitted via human waste.
  • Most houses or buildings with waste facilities like toilets discharge their waste directly into the main system of sewerage drains allowing the immediate removal of sewage to a place where it can be treated.
  • A relatively small proportion of properties are not sited closely enough to the network of drains and so have to discharge their waste in other ways. The most common alternative is to use a septic tank.
  • The septic tank’s main purpose is to receive substances such as human waste and hold them such that most of the resultant matter can be allowed to soak away into the surrounding area in a state which is less hazardous to the local environment.

So far, so good but this tends to be where, for most people, the knowledge ends. As we do with so many areas of technology, it’s tempting to see it as a ‘magic box’ that just does what it’s designed to do. How then does it actually work?

The process requires little more than time and what we may call ‘natural processes’ in a sealed environment, which ensures that there is no contamination of the wrong matter.

Essentially, the waste will sort into three states. It just needs to be given enough time to allow it to happen, unhindered. The three states are:

  • As they are denser, gravity dictates that they will settle at the bottom, where they will continue to decompose, which means break down further until they leave a dense sludge.
  • As the solids become denser, the liquid matter separates from it. The more solid separation that occurs, the more safely it can be returned to the surrounding area.
  • The crust is made up mostly of floating fats, oils and grease (and food). This matter collects at the surface of the liquid and should not be discharged with the liquid.

The design of the tank is such that, having enabled the separation of the liquor from the sludge, it allows the liquid matter just beneath the surface (the ‘cleanest’ bit, without the scum) to percolate back into the soil around the tank, the ‘soakaway’ area. Here the cleansing process continues, as the soil itself naturally removes coliform bacteria, viruses and nutrients from the effluent or liquid waste.

For this reason, it’s necessary to see a septic tank as merely the first stage in a process and not the whole solution to the problem of waste processing. Equally, the availability of a suitable soakaway area is just as important as the tank itself.

As the whole process relies on natural decomposition and the power of the soil as a way to treat harmful substances, problems can occur if the waste it treats contains too many chemicals, biological agents or bleaches and with our temperate climate the anaerobic digestion rate is so slow that a septic tank functions much more as a sedimentation tank.

What happens to the three states of matter over time?

With an appropriate level of soakaway area, the liquids will continue to percolate into the soil and harmlessly back into the ecosystem. The chief threat to this may be after periods of extreme wet weather. If ground is already soaked with rainwater, it may lose the capacity to accept effluent, which may bring it to the surface or congest the system, leading to a ‘back-up’ of waste. This problem should never occur as long as the correct soakaway parameters were considered when the septic tank was first installed. Even so, it’s advisable to have a healthy suspicion about this threat whenever there is a sustained period of extremely wet weather.

The scum will remain trapped in the tank as the barrier pipe allows the dispersal of the liquid while stopping the scum or crust entering the soak-away.

Eventually, the level of sludge will build up and begin to compromise the ability of the septic tank to do its job. For optimum efficiency, we advise you to have your septic tank de-sludged regularly in accordance with variables such as how many people live in your household – as this may require you to have it serviced more frequently.

You might have wondered, at the beginning of this blogpost, why on earth you’d ever need to know the inner workings of something that many people may feel is an area best left unexplored but there are many reasons why it’s a good idea that you give some thought to the humble septic tank that spends its life anonymously doing the worst of jobs, hidden away underground.

A little knowledge on the part of every septic tank owner should ensure that it continues to work perfectly – but as many unfortunate people may attest, it’s only when a septic tank stops doing its job as well as it should that it becomes truly appreciated!

CSG: Small Waste Oil Burners – Are You Legal?

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on November 30th 2016

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/317/

If have a Small Waste Oil Burner (SWOB), aware you aware of the changes to the law permitting their use?

Since 1st April 2016, DEFRA (The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) changed their classification of SWOBs, ruling that they now fall under the Industrial Emissions Directive.

This means that SWOBs are now regarded as small waste incineration plants and, as such, are subject to the same level of regulation. As the costs of complying with this regulation are higher than the level that most users would expect to absorb, it means that for most small businesses, waste oils will need to be sent for recycling via a competent, accredited partner – like Oil Monster!

As this is a legal requirement, companies that do not comply with these revised regulations will be committing an offence, which could lead to action led by the Environment Agency (in England) or Natural Resources Wales. The unregulated use of SWOBs was already banned in Scotland, Northern Ireland and all other EU member states. Non-waste fuels such as gas or fuel oil can still be used.

If you’re still burning waste oil in your oil burner, make sure you stay on the right side of the law. We’ll happily collect your waste oil quickly, sorting out all the legal paperwork – and, if you have a bulk volume, you may even find we’ll pay you for it!