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HotSeat – Simon Scholes, Managing Director at VEKA Compounds

VEKA Compounds is the polymer division of VEKA Recycling Ltd, an industry leader in the recycling of end-of-life uPVC windows and doors. The company has invested heavily in its Wellingborough plant since moving to the site in 2018, where it accepts virgin and post-consumer profiles that are converted into high-grade polymer for UK clients. Managing Director, Simon Scholes, has managed every stage of the creation of the Wellingborough operation and is the next PlastikCity Partner in the HotSeat…

What trends do you think will shape the future of UK plastics?  How will VEKA Compounds respond?

The obvious dream is that the UK embraces the use of recyclate into new products as a norm, not a niche. With the thoughtful design of products with the whole life cycle in mind- so that they are easily recyclable – working with the use of recycled material should see a vibrant and sustainable recycling and plastics industry.

If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything it is that plastics are a vital part of a safe and healthy environment. I have always argued against the ‘plastics are bad’ rhetoric. Any material is bad in the wrong application, natural products are no better than plastic if used for the wrong task.

What we need to appreciate is the value of plastics. Not in monetary terms, but as a resource, and by doing so I hope that we will not be so wasteful, and the sight of a valuable resource lost and left floating in our oceans will be part of history and not our future. In pursuit of this cause I also currently serve as the Vice-Chair of the British Plastics Federation Recycling Group.

How will we respond? Well, we will be here, making a reliable, quality product. Innovating with new products from PVC where it is needed and being the supply partner to the extrusion industry.

VEKA has been committed to recycling PVC across Europe for almost 30 years. That commitment gets stronger every year as we all wake up to the benefits of being a reliable recycling partner with a quality product fit for purpose every time.

How has VEKA Compounds developed during your tenure?

Goodness, that’s a big one. From our original UK location in Kent, early in 2019, we moved to our new base in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, to a site of almost 6 acres. We have invested almost £10m so far into building what will become the newest and most advanced PVC window recycling plant in Europe when development work is completed.

We have a staff who are almost all new to us with only 5 of us carrying over from our old site. We have created over 40 new jobs so far, recruiting locally to the plant and investing in our new home.

Testing procedures have been improved to make our compounds the most reliable and consistent that they have ever been.

We will continue the investment in terms of cash and technology even after the plant is fully commissioned. We don’t want to be the biggest recycler of PVC windows, we want to be the most trusted, reliable and quality recycler of PVC windows in the market.

What do you credit as the key to your success?

As a company, we have almost 30 years of recycling expertise to call upon to help us get it right. VEKA is over 50 years old and stands for family values, integrity, trust and quality.

The technical support we have had internally from our parent company in Germany has enabled us to build the best plant we can. The support to pay for the investment also came from our parent company, further proving not only the strength of the company but also the commitment to the environment.

I have the privilege to lead a strong, capable team. We have built our ‘new baby’ in Wellingborough together, so we can be proud of where we have got to.

With the family pulling together, a great suite of products to sell and solutions for our supply chain of input we have become the success we knew we always could be.

What has been the greatest challenge in your career?

I think it must be moving a live factory from Kent to Northamptonshire. Saying goodbye to some amazing staff who could not move with us, who kept working hard to their very last day, whilst building a brand new team at a second location.

We managed to replicate mechanically a 10-year-old established business within 10 months, staff it and get it running. Within 14 months of starting the replication (just 4 months after the old site closed), we were exceeding our historic performance figures. We have not stopped improving our performance and quality since we started.

I am very proud of our new home and the new VEKA family we have built.

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?

The advice I would give now differs very much from what I would tell a new apprentice.

What I should have been told was: “Watch out for sharks and try to not get bitten!” I entered into a very young recycling market, with lots of scoundrels still operating. The industry has grown up incredibly in the past 13 years and is now much more professional.

Advice to an apprentice would be to focus on quality, get the details right and waste nothing. The customer should never have cause to worry about the quality or level of service. And the company you serve should be a seamless partner, almost invisible because of its reliability and efficiency.

What hidden talents do you have?

I have an old MGB – so I know how to weld the bodywork as they have a tendency to dissolve if you leave them outside too long! I take the car on various trips across Europe with a small gaggle of fellow car nutters.

I studied agriculture at University and I know how to drive a tractor and a combine harvester. It’s been a while but I am pretty sure I could pick it up again should I ever need to! I’m an overqualified tractor driver really!

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