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8 December, 2006 - 17:05 By News Desk

Bat company seeks to build partnership for 'off-cuts'

Don-Bradman

An Essex firm – the world’s largest maker of English Willow bats – is seeking a good home for the 70 tonnes of waste wood left over each week.

The Chelmsford-based company J. S. Wright & Sons, founded in 1894, turns out hundreds of thousands of bats a year for the world’s cricketers, including the England team now batting in Australia, producing 75 per cent of the world’s supply. But only a small knot-free part of the tree can be used for the perfect bat blade.

For Jeremy Ruggles, great-grandson of the founder Jessie, it is getting critical. He explained: “We get 40 bats out of a tree, which means over 70 per cent gets left over. We’ve got 2,000 tonnes of waste wood sitting out there in the yard, and we’re looking for firms to take it and give it a good and useful home.”

He added: “My biggest bugbear is that we used to burn the waste, but we can’t do that now because of environmental regulations. What it means is that lorries are going to have to take it away, and that itself causes pollution.”

By-products, including bark, can be chipped to make fuel for power stations or stoves and for chipboard.

“We have had promises from firms who said they would take the wood, but no action yet. I won’t believe it until I see it,” Mr Ruggles said.

Now the firm has registered with a new free service which puts companies in touch with others who can make use of their waste or unneeded materials. The Eastex Essex Materials Exchange, set up in May and funded by the East of England Development Agency under its programme to cut business waste, acts “very much like a computer dating agency”, said its co-ordinator, Richard Albon.

The web-based Exchange offered real savings in disposal costs for unwanted materials, plant and equipment that still had value and firms or organisations looking for materials could find them by placing a free advert, he said.

“For J.S. Wright & Sons we’re looking for someone out there who can make use of these off-cuts, which would otherwise be a sheer waste of valuable natural resources,”

Albon said: “I am looking for businesses, community groups and other organisations that are searching for materials or want to get rid of things they no longer want.”

The Exchange has had a number of success stories. These include more than 500 surplus washable overalls from a Chelmsford company that were quickly snapped up by social enterprises in the county, and empty 40-gallon plastic drums that a Billericay food firm passed on to an allotment association. Mr Albon said the drums previously went into landfill.

Another success, he said, was a new Braintree firm making bio-diesel from waste cooking oil that used the Exchange to collect used oil from Allied Catering in Stevenage, boosting collections from about 400 litres a month to 1,000 litres.

“There’s also potential for further growth for these Braintree entrepreneurs,” he added.

The Exchange offers free access to the whole of its website - www.eastex.org.uk/essex.

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