One of the earliest pioneers of industrial recycling, which started trading at least 100 years before the term became an economic buzz-word, has won a prestigious 2009 Queen’s Award for Enterprise in recognition of the modern company’s outstanding contribution to export and international trade.
FJ Church & Sons, was founded on collecting ‘any old iron’ by horse and cart but is now a multi-million pound global operation dealing in non-ferrous metal scrap. In the period under consideration for the Awards – 2006 to 2008 – its annual sales increased by 117 per cent and exports by 114 per cent.
Much of the company’s impressive growth has come from the need to handle new categories of recyclable products and seizing opportunities from new markets. FJ Church & Sons has become a prominent player in the recycling of auto catalytic converters, from which precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium can be successfully extracted; since 2005, the company has recycled some 3.5 million of these automotive essentials.
Metal reclamation is also of great environmental as well as economic importance. Recycling has a lower carbon footprint than the alternative of digging virgin ore from the ground and helps to preserve stocks of these finite resources for future generations. Furthermore, the processing of recycled metals saves up to 80 per cent of the energy which would be required in new production.
Originally working solely in the domestic market, FJ Church’s first recorded international business was in 1929, when it exported scrap enamel signs and horseshoes to the Far East.
(Trust F J Church and Sons to be ahead of the pack ). The current Church brothers joined the business in 1975, aged only 17 and 16 respectively, just as global trading opportunities were developing. Export to Europe was then becoming the norm and new supplies of scrap were appearing in the Caribbean, South America and Africa.
With the removal of export quotas in the late 1980s, material started to be shipped to and from all parts of the world. The break-up of the Soviet Union, India’s industrialisation and the opening up of mainland China have all provided successful opportunities to expand into new and lucrative markets whilst performing a vital environmental role in recycling scarce resources. Every week, the company ships 1000 miles of scrap cable to China for re-processing, the equivalent every year of enough cable to stretch twice around the world.
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