Highlander International Recycling

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Highlander International Recycling's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Highlander International Recycling is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Brian Bingham, owner and
One of eight JCB Teletrucks
used for loading and unloading
Highlander International Recycling, a paper recycling and
shredding service, is based in the town of East Kilbride,
Scotland. Although international in its reach, it has
remained a strong part of the local community in which it’s
situated – from whom it currently employs 52 team members.
Throughout its lifespan, starting in 2002, the company has had
to contend with many challenges – something they’ve repeatedly
surmounted and as a result have won the Lanarkshire Business
Excellence Award in 2016 and Best Business Award in 2018.
Brian Bingham and Stephen Duffy, the owners and co-directors,
describe in greater detail the state of the sector and highlights
areas of best practice within it.
Who we are and what we do
At Highlander International Recycling, we focus on two principal areas: paper
recycling and security shredding. In terms of our clients, we cater principally for
three types: commercial, industrial and the public, processing for and selling to
paper mills direct. Paper recycling involves collecting waste paper from our clients,
who typically deal in high volumes of paper and are looking to reduce their carbon
footprint while maximising the value of their waste. Security shredding is done with
the purpose of rendering confidential documents and letters unreadable, thereby
ensuring privacy and eliminating the possibility of fraud. With a view to being as
environmentally friendly as possible, we ensure shredding is done off-site. This is
because shredding on the client’s site would require a large, diesel engine to power
»Co-directors and owners:
Brian Bingham and Stephen
»Established in 2002
»Based in East Kilbride,
»Services: Paper recycling and
»No. of employees: 52
»Scotland’s largest independent
recycling company
»Won Lanarkshire Business
Excellence Award (2016) and
Best Business Award (2018)
Highlander International
Highlighting best practice
the shredder, discharging carbon into
the environment – whereas shredding
on our own premises would require
only the national grid. Moreover, we’ve
ensured that the vehicles on which we
transport the material are low emission
and provide a more secure method of
destruction, reducing any risk of paper
escaping in customer’s car-parks.
This willingness to be as friendly to the
environment as possible is a key value
of ours. We take very seriously the
goal of reducing emissions, recycling
and reusing where possible. In doing
what we do, we source secondary
fibres which can be used for paper
products, precluding, therefore,
the need to have large swathes of
woodland cut down. As another of
our values, we want to be meaningful
contributors to the local community.
This means in practice providing our
staff with a living wage, good working
conditions, offering educational
opportunities for schools and trying to
do our best for the next generation.
Furthermore, by paying our staff a
living wage we retain our in-house
skills, achieving the highest-quality
product and service. This in time gives
us peace of mind by ensuring there
is a better future for our children and
our children’s children.
Being dyslexic (Brian), I left school
with few qualifications at the age
of 17. Hungry to make a future for
myself, I decided to drive around
all the industrial estates in the area
and pull out waste paper destined
for landfill. At this time during the
1980s, there was no obligation, legal
or social, to recycle – it simply wasn’t
something that people did back then:
would you wear a recycled suit? I then
took this paper, old cardboard, kraft
paper from kilt making and so on
for recycling and received money for
doing so. Fortuitously enough there
began a large, nationwide campaign
to recycle in the 1990s and 2000s,
with statutory measures also being
implemented to aid this national
goal. Seeing this opportunity, I began
expanding the operation by buying
more vans and support, and thus
was born my knowledge to create
Highlander International Recycling.
From that point onwards it’s been
The journey
We became “International” by buying
paper from merchants in Scotland but,
finding that a cartel mentality limited
our growth, I found it easier to expand
my operations by purchasing in Ireland,
and by negotiating with shipping
lines I could export worldwide, filling
shipping containers once returning
empty, now with 25 tonnes of waste
paper. This had a great impact upon
the environment, a better carbon
footprint and was more cost-effective,
forming strong bonds with Norway
and China – something we continued
for roughly a decade with continuous
support from Scottish Enterprise. I
felt, however, that we had more to
offer; processing paper was the future,
Reel cutting and loading
via modified excavator
onto a 120-tonne baling
Glasgow being
an industrial city,
with a traditional
base inclusive
and even kilt
making to name
a few, waste
paper was in
so with help from SouthLanarkshire
council we decided to buy our own
second-hand equipment and do
the collecting, sorting and bailing
ourselves, and it’s on this trajectory we
have remained ever since.
We now process over 22 grades of
waste paper, a dying trade to some
people, and offer a multitude of
services, recycling roughly 1,000 tonnes
of fibre per week, and hope soon to
escalate this to 1,200 tonnes. To get a
sense of the scale of growth, when we
were brokering only from multiple sites
in Ireland we would ship around 3,000
tonnes per week with as little as 12
per cent profit margin and with higher
risk, whereas last year we achieved a
37 per cent margin. We are always
in the process of finding ever newer
and better ways of carrying out our
operations and increasing ourcapacity.
With the exception of a small mortgage,
we have self-funded our growth,
reinvesting as much as physically
possible, without leaving ourselves too
exposed, such is the confidence we
have in our company. I believe in good
working conditions with high standards
of workmanship, prioritising the safety
of our entire workforce, I like to offer
a future to our staff and their families,
with opportunities to further training
and education. Furthermore, we have
not sought out talent from other
companies; we have instead tried to
foster talent organically from the local
community – again, a testament to our
involvement in thearea.
Bumps in the road
For us, Brexit represents a threat to
our survival as a business, especially
considering most of our trading is now
European; and although in the short-
term we are experiencing benefits
due to us selling our paper in euros,
we believe there could be long-term
problems inbound as a result of leaving
the European Union. I am concerned
that if any kind of tariff system was
imposed on waste paper, we may well
struggle to survive.
As a general matter, the future is
not entirely clear. Though we’re
optimistic in the medium-term, there
are long-term developments that we
believe are likely to significantly affect
our industry. For instance, paper is
being used less and less; the world
is becoming increasingly digital and
the need for high-quality paper (i.e.
that which we deal with) is decreasing
accordingly. Moreover, a lot of the
specialist knowledge that’s required to
do what we do is slowly fading away
without adequate replacement.
Nevertheless, for the foreseeable
future and for the remainder of our
lives, there will still be demand for our
services, and it’s within this space we
will continue to successfully operate.
As for our grandchildren’s generation,
all suits will be made from recycled
fibre, and I am sure they will be proud
to wear them.
My generation
may not see the
impact of our
work, but with
the education of
our children,
this work will be
carried on, and
will benefit all
generations to
Hand cutting end reels
from the whisky industry


This article was sponsored by Highlander International Recycling. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister