LIKE the proverbial phoenix from the ashes, Solway Recycling Ltd is a company that has come back bigger, and better, after a devastating fire.

The waste farm plastic recycling business was established by the Hiddleston family in 1992 and has worked hard to become one of the most renowned manufacturers of recycled products in Scotland, and indeed the industry as a whole.

May will mark three years since fire tore through not only the business, but the family’s’ home, but through the development of new products, ingenuity and sheer hard work, the company is going from strength to strength.

“After the fire, we had to completely rebuild the recycling side of our business,” explained Roy Hiddleston, who runs Solway Recycling alongside his wife Sharon and daughter Annabelle. Son Gregor is also involved in the business, but is currently in Glasgow full-time, working on a thriving rugby career with Glasgow Warriors, after representing the Scottish national team many times and under 20s level.

“That was obviously difficult, but we also took it as an opportunity so used the chance to reset and decide how we wanted to move things forward. This has led is to not only rebuilding the business physically, with a new set up, but we’ve also developed new products.

“The main one being, Solway-Board – our own material used for creating the products we sell, and to say it’s been a game-changer, would be an understatement.”

The business now has a new sheet line, to make their own-brand plastic sheets, Solway-Board, something the company didn’t have before the fire, and something that has allowed them to now bring all their product development, in-house.

Solway-Board has been a hit with farmers and fabricators alike, and it is being snapped up by customers.

Roy continued: “We were lucky that we were left with a few agricultural buildings after the fire, and this meant that we were able to keep running the business. If we hadn’t had that – and if it had been the winter months, as opposed to May, heading into summer – we’d have almost certainly had to shut up shop, and probably never got going again.

“We’ve had to make serious investment, about £3million so far, with about another third of that still needed to complete our vision, but with the help of a South of Scotland Enterprise grant, a supportive bank in HSBC, and a lot of patience and hard work, I think we are getting there.

“Our timing couldn’t have been worse financially, as far as the cost of materials etc, has been concerned, so that has delayed things. You must make money before you can spend money, but it feels like we are slowly getting there, now.”

Solway-board is almost a one stop shop as far as efficiency and sustainability is concerned, as a lot of the waste that Solway Recycling collects from farms, goes back into making the product, so farmers know their plastic waste isn’t being dumped in landfill, or being shipped across the world.

“We have full traceability on the waste we collect,” Roy tells us.

“Waste collection on farms is still our core business, and we have a great relationship with NFUS, that has helped us developed our waste collection hubs, where farmers can drop waste off, for us to collect for them.

“At the end of the day, it is Farm Assurance that drives farmers to recycle, it’s a farming practice they get checked on, and questions they get asked, and hopefully we’re here to help them do it right, and in the best way possible for their own business.

"It is also encouraging that, since we started the business, it's a different generation of farmers out there, and recycling is now something they seem to very much want to do, not something they feel they have to do."

The Hiddleston’s are the first to admit that the increase in the cost of living and the financial state of the country, hasn’t come without ramifications for their business.

Roy explained: “Business is getting back to being busy, but the economy doesn’t match that. Farmers are being seriously hit by things like increasing electricity and fuel prices, and last year we definitely saw them cutting back on using our sheets for fabricating, or purchasing our recycled products.

“The recycling side of things stayed very strong, but we definitely saw a drop in product sales, but we’re nearly a month into 2023, and things are definitely looking up already, so long may that continue.”

Business seems to be growing from different directions, and Solway Recycling are seeing more and more orders coming in from Southern Ireland, especially for their Solway-Board calf and lamb pens.

Their product range is huge, with recycling bins, warming boxes, eco hen houses, pig arcs, calf and sheep pens all available, as well as more leisure-use products like picnic benches and seating, all made form their low-cost recycled plastic, to their over 40,000 customers.

The company is also part of the Green Tractor Scheme, which they helped to start, with other farm plastic collectors, to make sure their businesses are properly checked and audited, to ensue that the plastic they collect is being dealt with in the most environmentally friendly way possible, giving farmers the assurance that their plastic won't end up where it shouldn't.

With the family employing 25 full-time staff, things are going from strength to strength, but Roy is the first to admit that things are far from finished, and that they have big plans for the future.

He concludes: “I think we’re a long way off being finished to be honest, from the point of view of physically rebuilding our business, but also with continuing to drive our product development forward.

“We still have workshops and offices to build, and I would love to have some sort of visitor centre and boardroom facilities available, so that we can both do business, and have somewhere to show people what it is we do. We often get schools, colleges and farming groups wanting to come for tours, so I would love to be properly set up for that.

“Overall though, I just want the business to continue growing, and thriving. We’ve put 30 years and lot of hard work into it, and we hope that isn’t going to stop any time soon.”