RiverRidge: Leading the Way as a Responsible and Sustainable Business

With the increasing drive for businesses to become more sustainable, and the growing importance of ensuring Northern Ireland reaches its target of net zero by 2050, we are experiencing a shift in how we work and live. Positive changes to our society are primarily being driven by the younger generation and are impacting on how companies operate now and in the future.

Leading waste and resource management company, RiverRidge is recognising and embracing this change. Beginning as a small skip hire business, it has been transformed into the fully integrated waste recovery operation that it is today, consistently pushing the boundaries on the management of waste, and becoming a critical part of the region’s sustainable future.

At the Forefront of Innovation

 Recognising early on the environmental importance of landfill diversion, RiverRidge worked closely with a large number of the region’s councils, playing a pivotal role in enabling the achievement of landfill diversion strategies. Where the rate of municipal waste landfilled in 2011 was 57.4%, figures released late last month show this now sits at 20.2%. Whilst this improvement can be attributed to better recycling efforts generally, such a transformation would not have been possible without the significant advances being made by RiverRidge and the scale of its operation in Northern Ireland.

These advancements include the development of the region’s first waste-to-energy facility, Full Circle Generation (FCG) in Belfast. The plant processes black bin household waste through a gasification technology, with the end result being a reliable and predictable source of energy provided for businesses in Northern Ireland, including Spirit AeroSystems.

However, whilst the combined heat and power plant is still a fundamental part of RiverRidge’s strategy, it recognises that its process carries a high carbon footprint, and so the company has invested heavily in finding long-term, more environmentally friendly alternatives.

One such project is the development of an alternative vehicle fuel project and anaerobic digestion (AD) plant that maximises the level of recycling from residual waste.

Through substantial investment in research and development over the last number of years, RiverRidge has designed a unique process based on wash plant technology and anaerobic digestion (AD), which takes the organic and fibre material from waste streams and creates biomethane. The first stage of the multi-million project is complete, with the second phase due to commence next year. The biomethane that is created will be used to generate green electricity, and replace diesel fuel in the company’s transport fleet, whilst also being made available to customers to utilise, therefore reducing their business energy costs.

RiverRidge’s approach to waste management goes beyond its operations and finding innovative solutions as it remains committed to promoting sustainability and continuing to lead the way in the Northern Ireland waste sector.

Rethinking Our Future

 In 2022, RiverRidge formally launched its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy, entitled ‘Rethinking Our Future’, the first of its kind for a waste management company in Northern Ireland. ‘Rethinking our Future’ is a dynamic and evolving comprehensive framework of activities that allows the company to take a long-term view of its business, its place within the community and the planet, as well as looking after its people.

It builds on RiverRidge’s vision to ‘treat waste as a valuable resource to ensure a positive outcome for our planet and our communities’, and has three core principles:

  • Leading the way as a responsible and sustainable business
  • Looking after our people, our customers and the communities we work in
  • Protecting the environment and driving the circular economy through innovation

The launch of the strategy, which reinforces the company’s need to continue to innovate, adapt and evolve, followed RiverRidge’s signing of Business In the Community’s Climate Action Pledge in October 2021, where it publicly committed to reducing its absolute scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, and to working towards measuring and reporting its scope 3 GHG emissions. An ambitious set of goals for any company, but particularly for RiverRidge given that one of the largest carbon contributors within the waste management sector is transport.

With steps already in place to reach these goals, with the company taking receipt of its first biofuel vehicle, and the commencement of the AD plant project, both of which will have a considerable impact on RiverRidge’s carbon reduction targets, CEO Brett Ross is confident in the company’s ability, stating, “We have always demonstrated leadership, and the emergence of ESG is no different. We see ourselves as a disruptor and given that so many of our ambitious plans have already come to fruition, we are very clear on the way forward in how we reduce our carbon footprint and meet our sustainable goals.

“Our customers can have confidence in knowing that when they choose RiverRidge as their waste management provider, they are choosing the most environmentally friendly, carbon efficient haulage and treatment offering for waste disposal in the market; one that focuses on achieving the highest level of recycling, with systems that achieve the lowest carbon footprint and a verified zero to landfill outcome.

Concluding, Brett said, “We’re working hard on meeting the targets set out in our ESG strategy and we’re confident that when we publicly launch our first annual ESG report later this month, our stakeholders will see our commitment to, and progress on our sustainability activities over the last year.

“We look forward to building on these activities in the years ahead, and further establishing RiverRidge as the leading waste and resource management company in the region.”

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