While considering the business case for sustainable development, I find the story of UK-based waste services company, Biffa, particularly interesting.
Biffa began its life as a road haulage company before acquiring a landfill site and moving in to waste management. Today, it is the UK’s largest industrial and commercial waste collection network, with more than 70,000 customers and 1,450 collection points. In addition to waste collection and landfill operations the company is increasingly specialising in the collection and disposal of hazardous and other specialty waste, and renewable power generation. In fact, Biffa’s strategy is based on transforming itself from a landfill operator and waste collection business to an ‘energy-from-waste’ business.
Biffa argues that after recycling, waste should be used to generate energy. For example, it recovers energy from waste through the application of two processes; biological treatment to generate biogas, and thermal treatment to generate energy as either heat, syngas or electricity. This electricity is then fed directly in to the UK’s national grid. The company is now one of the major generators of landfill gas-based power with an installed capacity of 109 megawatts – a row of 20 houses consumes on average 13,000kWh/month or 13MW.
In 2008, Biffa recorded sales of $1,548.4million and a profit of $79million. More recently, the company announced plans to expand its recycling and energy-from-waste business after its owners acquired rival Greenstar UK for £135m.
As I see it, Biffa is just another example of how business can benefit by pro-actively seeking out creative solutions to large-scale environmental challenges.