Going green isn’t just a trend. It is vital to the efficient running of a business and the future of the planet. Everyone can do their bit, no matter how small, and Stairways is continually looking to see what else we can to reduce our carbon footprint.
This is not a new thing. We have been working on recycling and green energy for more than 15 years through our use of biomass energy.
Biomass simply means “found in nature”. Therefore, biomass energy is all about creating energy from natural products. At Stairways, we have a lot of sawdust and wood by-products that fit in this category! So, what we have invested in consistently is equipment that can turn our waste products into energy to then heat our facilities. This reduces our carbon footprint while helping mitigate cost increases, something which helps limit costs passed on to customers.
Managing Director Neil Stevens said: “The story started at the site we used to occupy in Cannock. When we bought it, it had a hot air burner that burned waste and converted it into hot air which it blew into the spray shop to heat it.
“We then bought a similar biomass burner to install when we started up a site in Leamington Spa, which moved with us to Southam when we relocated more than 10 years ago.”
The heat burner was replaced with a hot water boiler when it came to the end of its life. This effectively works as a domestic central heating system, but using wood waste to heat hot water to push around to heat the Southam factory and offices, rather than “on-the-grid” gas or electric. This was a £110,000 investment seven years ago in a 336kw boiler system.
The new equipment was compliant with the Government’s Domestic Renewable Heat Initiative, created to encourage more companies to work towards a greener future.
When Stairways Midlands acquired the staircase division at Walsall, it also had an air burner, but one that was underpowered so delivered limited benefits. It was replaced with a huge 728kw boiler system, at a cost of £250,000. The purpose, again, was to recycle waste, reduce overheads, reduce carbon footprint and, ultimately, pass these savings onto customers.
Last year, at Southam alone, Stairways burned just over 171 tonnes of waste in its biomass boiler, creating a massive 547,580kWh of energy. That’s enough to supply electricity to around 150 UK homes for a year. At Walsall, the figures for 2020 are even higher, with 611.07 tonnes used in the biomass boiler, creating 1,955,430kWh of energy, enough to supply a year’s electricity to 528 homes!*
Neil added: “The benefits to us are offices and manufacturing floors that offer a comfortable workspace for colleagues powered in a very efficient way. It also means we can keep overhead rises as low as possible – energy is one of the largest overheads – so limits the impact this has on our quotes for customers. It is a win, win, win – good for Stairways, good for customers, and good for the environment.”
* Figures based on one tonne burnt creating 3,200kWh. The average UK home uses 3,700 kWh of electricity per year