Green Business Awards 2008: Best Environmental Business - Winner Green-Tech

In Britain's competitive market for growing media (the substrate or compost used for growing plants), environmental issues have long been important, notably in the long-running controversy over the use of peat.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Increasing numbers of suppliers have begun launching greener types of compost and replacement topsoil. York-based landscaping firm Green-Tech is in the vanguard with its green-tree topsoil, a product made from a mixture of sewage sludge and local authority composted green waste. Green-tree topsoil has already won awards for its environmental benefits. It recently achieved a commercial breakthrough when Green-Tech supplied 30,000 cubic metres of the topsoil to rejuvenate a former colliery in South Yorkshire.

Green-Tech began its life 14 years ago as a supplier of tree shelters. Its business, it says, was always geared to developing a sustainable environment. It now supplies a wide range of products to the landscaping, forestry and construction industries, and has grown to 29 employees.

Recycled topsoil is one of Green-Tech's main product lines. Its flagship product is green-tree topsoil, a unique blend of processed sewage sludge and local authority composted green waste, plus silica sand.

Green-tree topsoil was developed four years ago, after Green-Tech was taken with the idea of developing more eco-friendly outlets for sewage sludge.

The product was developed in association with Yorkshire Water, which supplies the sludge.

The product quickly drew praise, winning 'environmental product of the year' in the National Recycling Awards in 2006. As well as being recycled, it meets British topsoil standard BS3882 and can be continuously manufactured to a consistent quality.

Green-Tech's ability to scale up production was critical to the successful completion of its biggest project, the rejuvenation of a former colliery site, Wath Manvers in South Yorkshire.

The project included transformation of the site into a playing area that would benefit the surrounding community.

For this, 30,000 cubic metres of topsoil were required. Green-Tech was able to offer a consistent mix for every load, which, it says, is not easy to achieve with other sources of topsoil. It also estimates that the supply of gt topsoil for the project resulted in the diversion of 20,000 tonnes of organic material from landfill.

A further benefit of green-tree topsoil, according to Green-Tech, is its bulk density of just 1 cubic metre per tonne, compared with 1.6 for most other soils. In the Wath Manvers project, Green-Tech estimates that this saved up to 650 lorry journeys in delivering the soil, with attendant reductions in traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

A full-time salesperson has been employed since March 2008, and a marketing budget of zero has been increased to £7,000 to promote the product into more areas. Production sites have now been established nationally.

Green-Tech is working on other soil products. For instance, gt growlite has been developed to meet the requirements of roof gardens, an increasingly popular option for creating green space in urban areas. Its PAS100 (a British standard for compost)-compliant range of compost and topsoil was developed to increase the water-holding capacity needed to improve natural irrigation for plants and it has slow nutrient-release properties.

Green-Tech's innovative environmental approach has paid off in the form of annually increasing turnover, which recently reached the £6m mark. The business has committed to procuring a minimum of 50% of the product range from either recycled sources or offering environmentally friendly benefits by the end of 2010.

Highly Commended - Vital Earth p27

Shortlisted - Paper Round p27

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