There’s an old Yorkshire adage that “where there’s muck, there’s brass.”
That couldn’t be truer for Van Dalen, the leading metals recycler which this month officially opened a job-creating £6 million investment in its Grange Mill Lane site in Sheffield, bringing the total investment in the site to £10m since it opened in 2005.
Dutch-owned Van Dalen operates a total of 17 metals recycling sites across Northern Europe including six in the UK, all of which have been established since 2000, when the family-owned business opened its first British plant - in Immingham.
Since it opened, Sheffield has become by far the company’s biggest operation, employing 50 people, supplying steelworks and other customers for recycled metals with 180,000 of the 500,000 tonnes Van Dalen’s UK plants dispatch each year.
Half of the Sheffield production goes to UK plants – by road or rail – while the rest is shipped abroad – some of it in containers - to countries that include India and Vietnam.
“The UK market is driven by exports,” says Van Dalen UK’s managing director Tom Bird, who joined the business in 2010.
“The UK is a net exporter of scrap and it is basically the export price that determines the price in the UK. It’s very important to have the flexibility to export or supply the domestic market and this operation does both.”
Not so very long ago, exporting involved large scale contracts delivered through major ports – Van Dalen has operations at Chatham, Dagenham and Immingham Docks, as well as Irvines Quay in Hartlepool.
But the growth of markets in India and South East Asia, which will accept scrap in containers, has opened the way to satisfying smaller contracts, dispatched from and delivered directly to inland destinations, if necessary.
Metals recycling remains a competitive business, says Tom Bird, but Van Dalen’s owner, Rolf Van Dalen, saw strategic opportunities in the UK that would complement his Dutch operations and, having firmly established itself, the company now has the ambition to double output to one million tonnes in three to five years. When expansion comes, where it will be is an open question at the moment.
“We see opportunities to expand, but we are at the limit of our existing site at the moment,” says Tom Bird.