Renewi turns waste into opportunity

International waste management company Renewi is globally pioneering a bold new vision on waste processing.

The global market for waste management is projected to expand at a rapid pace in the years ahead. Under pressure from rising volumes, increasing legislation, growing costs and environmental concerns, the need for new approaches and advanced technologies to create value and greater efficiencies along the waste management chain has never been greater.

With technology at the core of its proposition, international waste management company Renewi is looking to do just this. By applying a waste-to-product business model that is focused on extracting value from waste, rather than on its disposal through mass incineration or landfill, the company aims to address growing environmental concerns, and to promote a capital-efficient way of recycling and managing commercial and municipal waste.

Renewi P. Dilnot portrait

“Our brand name denotes that we are at the heart of the circular economy - the ‘i’ stands for innovation,” says Renewi CEO Peter Dilnot. “But you can also say that we’re at the pragmatic end of renewables and that we focus on practical impact. That’s why we see compelling opportunities to deliver profitable growth and value for our shareholders through our distinct divisional strategies. This enterprise now has the scale, capabilities and resources to really be at the forefront of recycling technology.”

Renewi was born from the February 2017 merger of the UK’s Shanks Group plc and the Netherlands’ Van Gansewinkel Groep B.V. following a lengthy anti-trust process. The combined entity is a top global waste management company listed on the London Stock Exchange with operations across nine countries in Europe and North America. Crucially, it is a market leader in the Netherlands, one of the world’s most advanced recycling and waste products markets.

Its approach to the waste management lifecycle centres on creating valuable products from materials that are otherwise discarded. It collects or receives waste, which is sorted into specific recyclates and streams for treatment. It then looks to create and sell valuable products from these segregated waste streams and disposing of the remaining waste. Renewi recycles or recovers energy from nearly 90% of the waste it receives, and, in doing so, prevents around 2.88 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year – equivalent to the total emissions of almost all the households in Amsterdam.

The company has also struck major so-called ‘closed loop’ partnerships deals with large manufacturers. One is with electronics, healthcare and lighting technology company Philips to produce a vacuum cleaner made from 36% recycled plastic from discarded old vacuum cleaners. Another partnership is with household goods company Miele, to deliver back cast iron for washing machines, producing bricks from ashes formed by incinerators and creating packaging from crop waste.

“These are highly innovative companies in their respective fields, and these partnerships not only limit the use of virgin materials, they also demonstrate our growth potential within the expanding circular economy, which is what we’re passionate about,” says Dilnot. “We’ve introduced a new business division called monostreams to focus on specific end markets such as glass and electronics to create more partnerships like these. With the business fully integrated, we’ll be able to upscale this model and move it to the next level.”

The merger of the two companies has created an extremely compelling combination, says Dilnot, as the two businesses are extremely complementary with some areas of overlap. For example, Van Gansewinkel’s focus has traditionally been on the logistics side of the chain, while Shanks’ biggest strengths have been on processing, says Dilnot. In a market like Belgium, this has meant that Shanks is stronger in the South while Van Gansewinkel is stronger in the north.

Over the next three years, as a fully integrated entity, Renewi expects to create significant synergies in this way and further drive its growth capacity. It will also focus on bringing its two distinct business cultures together, which despite some differences, share high levels of integrity and value great teamwork.

“Mergers must start with strong and coherent visions -- and that is what we have; a focus on the same things and a tremendous opportunity to make more from waste,” says Dilnot. “The key thing is that this has been a merger of equals because of the great capabilities each side brings. We’ve taken the best from each side. It’s a point of pride to me that in my top team I have 12 direct reports that split equally between Van Gansewinkel and Shanks people, with some fresh new leaders too.”

Renewi’s strong social and environmental purpose of making products from waste, and giving new life to used materials is a strong motivating factor for people on either side of the business. The company’s commitment to contributing to the circular economy is immensely energising, says Dilnot, and only adds to the general excitement there is following the merger, as a larger, fast-growing organisation.

In the years ahead, Renewi will continue to pursue selective investments in recycling technologies and markets where these fit its strategy and have a positive impact on the environment. This will include generating ideas in-house for new waste products to leverage capabilities, and acquiring companies that are highly innovative or that help to bolster its geographical coverage. It will also explore opportunities to incubate technologies emerging out of research institutes that need support for further commercialisation, sometimes as part of a joint venture.

Renewi also looks forward to continuing its relationship with ING, which was an important advisor with local market knowledge during the merger process and in raising the necessary bank facility.

“Beyond the services they offer, ING has a strong focus on sustainability, which means there’s a good alignment with our vision and business model. This makes for a good affiliation between us,” says Dilnot.