Every industry is ripe for digital transformation these days and waste is no exception, as one Irish entrepreneur is proving. With new customers including the US Army and multiple UK local authorities, Tommy Griffith’s firm PEL Waste Reduction Equipment is leading the way with its smart bins.
PEL’s SolarSmartBin is as innovative and sustainable as new products get. It’s a solar-powered on-street bin that compacts rubbish so it only needs to be emptied a tenth as often as old-fashioned bins. Using its proprietary BriteBin technology, the bin also notifies the council (or relevant body) when it needs to be emptied.
With far fewer garbage trucks having to be on the road, that not only saves councils and other clients money, but it also helps to reduce emissions. Although the bins don’t require plastic bags, those operators that use them also cut this plastic use by 90 percent.
“The bin also prevents vermin and birds from interfering with rubbish, meaning streets and nearby waterways are cleaner, while the risk to birds and animals is reduced,” explains Tommy.
“Furthermore, the bins are pedal-operated, making them hygienic and Covid-safe, and they are fully sealed so emit no odors. As the waste is compacted and contained in a standard wheelie bin, they also reduce the risk of manual handling, so those emptying the bins don’t need to worry as much about sharps (needles) and contamination.”
Catering to clients in multiple sectors
Previously an EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, Griffith is a seasoned business leader, with PEL manufacturing waste reduction equipment since 2005. Its patented range of glass crushing equipment is used by numerous clients in hospitality while its other waste compactors and balers are also widely used across healthcare, pharmaceuticals, education, retail, and the public sector in Ireland and the UK.
PEL’s client list is enviable, including recognizable retail brands such as Tesco, Lidl, John Lewis, hotels from the Hilton, Marriott, Radisson, Crowne Plaza, Ritz and Dorchester chains, the HSE, and NHS, along with numerous universities and local authorities.
With the ramp-up of the SolarSmartBin side of the business, Griffith is now seeing that client base expanding rapidly and recently secured a contract with a local authority in New Jersey in the US. The smart bin market is forecast to be worth $US4 billion by 2027 and PEL is well-placed to exploit this opportunity.
The company recently secured a contract with the US Army to install 25 SolarStreetBins to its Clay Kaserne base in Hesse, Germany.
“Birds are a real problem at air bases due to the risk of bird strikes, but our bins mean fewer birds are attracted to the area as they can’t scavenge from bins,” says Tommy. “We were chosen from a competitive tender process and went through a rigorous testing and approvals process with the US military.”
Tendering support from Enterprise Ireland
The public tender process can be challenging, says Tommy, with the period from engaging first with a potential customer through to winning a tender often taking as long as two years. He recognized the company needed some support in writing the detailed tenders needed.
“The Enterprise Ireland team in the UK is excellent. They helped us with introductions and also in relation to tendering — we did online courses with them to help understand how to tackle tenders.
“Markets are changing and part of what people are looking for, particularly in the UK, is social value. Corporate social responsibility is becoming more and more apparent in all tenders, so you have to be able to provide and implement social value. We learned the hard way and now we win the majority of tenders we go for.”
A bright future for smart bins
PEL recently moved into a new manufacturing facility in the West of Ireland and provides potential clients with live demos via video conference multiple times a week. The company employs 26 directly, with a further 40-50 subcontractors working in a sheet metal facility. With waste management an essential service in every market, PEL expects to triple in size over the next three years.