Lewis Horne joined UNTHA UK 6 months ago as a Customer Relations Advisor and has loved getting stuck in learning the ins and outs of plastics waste and recycling. UNTHA UK is the UK’s leading industrial shredder specialist, celebrating a 50-year heritage – read on to see if the PlastikMedia HotSeat can get a shred of exclusive news from Lewis…
What trends do you think will shape the future of UK plastics? How will UNTHA UK respond?
Plastics have long been at the centre of the waste and recycling debate, but I think that while the focus in recent years has been on the phasing out of single-use plastics, over the next 12 months, we’ll likely see attention being directed towards the ‘trickier’ side of plastic recycling.
Taking flexible plastics as an example, they are set to be introduced to local authority kerbside collections in England by 2027. However, while this is great news, it’s important to consider how recycling lines will adapt to be able to process these notoriously difficult items. There will need to be a change in approach to the collection and handling of plastics, to ensure this is successful.
Also, on another related note, there are lots of conversations happening in industry about the importance of plastics being handled on home soil. This means that there will be greater scrutiny on general recyclers handling plastics and plastic recycling specialists not always defaulting to energy recovery routes, but, where possible, shredding to segregate the plastics so that they can be reprocessed.
Lastly, POPs – persistent organic pollutants — found in some WEEE, will continue to be a key topic. Typically, some operators think it’s not worth shredding this hazardous waste stream as it’s too difficult — meaning it’s often left to be someone else’s ‘problem’. But not only is this irresponsible, but it’s not true. With the right mindset and commitment to investments, there are technologies that can process more complicated plastic products.
As such, I think more operators will start looking to obtain the maximum resource potential from their e-waste items — going beyond the processing metals and precious elements alone and recognising the valuable plastics within, too.
However, in order to be able to successfully address the more ‘technical’ areas within the plastic recycling sphere, innovation and industry-wide collaboration have to take centre stage.
How has UNTHA UK developed during your tenure?
I’ve been at UNTHA UK for just over six months, and during this short time I’ve seen the company continue to go from strength to strength.
From welcoming new faces to the team and awarding promotions to long-serving staff, to seeing a notable uplift in customer demand and sales, it’s been a ‘full speed ahead’ time for the business.
I think I’ve seen and been aware of so many successes due to my thorough induction.
I’ve been getting under the skin of the whole organisation and working across many different departments — spanning time on site with engineers to office-based project work — to help me build up my knowledge of our processes and the wider sector.
Just before I started, the company was also listed in the Digital Enterprise Top 100 — for the third year running — alongside being awarded ‘Leading Light’ status. This was a fantastic achievement for the organisation.
What do you credit as the key to your success?
Being able to build a strong rapport with individuals. I’m a very sociable and people-centric person, and I think this has helped me throughout my career to date. My willingness to ‘get stuck in’ and soak up information has also worked in my favour — I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself and develop, and my role at UNTHA UK is the perfect opportunity to do just this!
What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
I think one of the biggest challenges — and best opportunities — has been taking the leap from my last job at Yorkshire Water into the world of waste and recycling. But I can honestly say that it’s been the best decision — I’m enjoying being part of such a talented team and an integral industry.
What advice do you wish you’d had on entering the industry and does that differ from the advice you would give to an apprentice joining now?
I wish I’d known more about the waste and recycling industry and various roles and processes involved — not because you have to, but because it’s absolutely fascinating!
Many people throw their waste away without ever wondering where it goes and what’s the next stage in its lifecycle. I would urge people wanting to enter the sector as an apprentice to ask themselves these questions — be curious — and make sure you join a company that offers an ‘immersive induction’. One that encompasses all departments is crucial, as it’s important to learn about the whole business, never one area in isolation.
My last piece of advice would be that the industry is so brilliant and complex, so enjoy playing your part in helping to work towards achieving a better, more sustainable future.
What hidden talents do you have?
I’m a dab hand at archery — I’m actually a qualified instructor. My passion for the sport started when my dad bought my brother and I an archery kit when we were younger. I loved it so much that I even volunteered as an instructor during my time at the Air Cadets.
I’m also a musician — I played the drums for a number of years in a few different bands.
Read more about UNTHA UK here.