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Reclamation helps to break disposal mould

Demolition/Recycling; Recycling is becoming big business for demolition companies. Claire Symes takes a look at one Reading demolition company which considers recycling to be not just good business but a way of life

CONTRACTOR John Mould lives among the products of the buildings his eponymous firm has demolished.

Not only that, but the firm's employees, too, are surrounded by items dismantled from jobs carried out over the years.

You might think this is another story of an eccentric demolition character with an untidy yard. In fact, it is a tale of a firm's commitment to recycling.

Every one of Mould's offices are built from reclaimed materials, right from the roof, windows and walls down to the desks and carpet tiles.

John Mould has also built a number of luxury houses using reclaimed bricks and other architectural antiques to demonstrate the endless possibilities available within recycling - and lives in one of them himself.

The contractor sells the fruits of reclamation, both large- and small- scale, back to the industry and also to members of the public.

John Mould demolition manager Roy Weaver says: 'We only landfill material as a last resort. If there is a market for a recycled material we will sell it, if not we will always try to process it so it can be reused.'

The company was started by John Mould in 1969 with just one truck offering a muck away service to local builders.

John quickly realised that there was a market for the material that he was being paid to take away. Soon the company had a growing fleet of trucks and processing equipment.

By the early 1980s Mould was selling recycled demolition waste quicker than it could win contracts to muck the material away, so the company started to undertake demolition itself.

Since then Mould has gone from strength to strength, even during the boom and bust years of the late '80s and early '90s. The company has been involved in many of the major demolition jobs in and around Reading and Berkshire over the years. Says Mr Weaver: 'Demolition of Reading's Huntley & Palmer biscuit factory in the late 1980s was a huge job given the economic climate at the time. That job and several others helped Mould to expand when others were going under.'

In more recent times the company has been involved in the Oracle shopping complex in Reading town centre and the central redevelopment scheme in Maidenhead.

Reading's Oracle scheme required Mould to undertake the demolition of an old bus depot and remove more than 10,000 cu m of solvent and hydrocarbon contaminated material.

Mould also supplied the 10,000 cu m of recycled brick hardcore and thermolite to backfill the excavations.

Today Mould employs more than 90 staff, has a wide range of machines and trucks and offers a complete list of services - from demolition, decontamination and haulage to recycling, reclamation and disposal.

Mr Weaver attributes the company's success to its dedication to customer service and the commitment to using the latest technology available. He says: 'John Mould has always said 'if they make a machine for it, then use it'.

'There is more than just money to be earned from a quicker and safer job, there is reputation and respect too.'

Mould's reputation often goes before it, with many contracts being negotiated rather than tender wins.

However, the company is not just committed to its customers; Mould considers its employees to be very important.

'It is all very well having the most sophisticated machine but it is only as good as the operator so it is essential that our staff are highly skilled, trained to cope with anything and happy in what they do,' says Mr Weaver.

It is obviously a policy that works as a large number of employees have been with Mould since the company's early days.

Mould operates from four sites in and around Reading; a haulage depot, a reclamation depot, a waste transfer station and a licensed landfill site.

The company's 8 ha waste transfer station processes well in excess of 400,000 tonnes of construction waste each year which would otherwise be landfilled. Concrete and brick waste is crushed and screened to comply with gradings from Type 1 to 6F2.

Other suitable inert materials are sorted, crushed and screened to produce various grades of granular fill. 'We sell roughly 2,000 tonnes of recycled waste from the transfer site every day for reuse in the construction industry,' says Mr Weaver.

'Although we will always try to recycle material sometimes, with materials like asbestos, there is no alternative but to landfill.

However, all our landfill sites were disused gravel pits and before backfilling we remove any remaining gravel which previous operators have classed as uneconomic to extract.

'The entire 3 km length of the A33 Rose Kiln link road in Reading was built using aggregates from our landfill sites,' says Mr Weaver.

Mould also salvages reusable building materials and architectural antiques from demolition sites and resells the materials from its reclamation depot in central Reading. 'Our Cow Lane reclamation depot is open to both the public and commercial customers. Sales in reclaimed materials have gone up dramatically in recent years mainly due to the trend for period interiors and ever increasing environmental awareness,' says Mr Weaver.

The list of materials available at the site is almost endless but includes tiles, slates, intact bricks, timber, doors, windows, fire places, baths, taps, radiators and paving slabs to name but a few.

Last year more than 500,000 palleted and shrink-wrapped reclaimed bricks were sold from the reclamation site.

Mould does not just recycle separated building materials but also dismantles whole steel-framed buildings to be sold and re-erected elsewhere. Towards the back of the haulage depot there are several re-erected steel-framed buildings which at first glance do not draw much attention.

However, inside is demonstrated yet another part of Mould's multifarious recycling philosophy. Crammed into two unassuming buildings are 50, or maybe even 60 or 70, classic cars and commercial vehicles - from Fords and E-type Jags to a London bus - all lovingly restored.

'Most of the cars and vans are complete wrecks when John Mould buys them and to most would be scrap rather than a potential restoration project,' says Mr Weaver.

'But to John they represent an important part of the Mould recycling philosophy - to preserve and renovate anything of value rather than to discard and destroy it.'