Profile - Jason Elliot: Throwaway society creates a firm foundation for recycling venture

IT would have seemed impossible just a few years ago; turning old crisp packets, CD cases and plastic coat-hangers into things like bollards and fencing for equestrian events.

But now it's a reality, and Jason Elliot is at the forefront of a recycling revolution that could help to save the nation from one of its worst habits – over-consumption.

Mr Elliott, 45, a laid-back polymath who has worked around Europe in industries as diverse as photography, tourism and T-shirt production, is helping to make good use of the detritus which is the end product of the throwaway attitude of so many Britons.

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His Hebden Bridge recycling business takes the plastics we no longer need, has them re-formed and sells them on as construction products and outdoor furniture.

In only two years, he has built British Recycled Products (BRP) into a 750,000 turnover business and worked with civil engineering firms, Leeds-based Asda, the Environment Agency, the NHS and several local authorities.

Now it is in negotiations with EDF Energy about a contract and has also begun talking to a 2.5bn construction company, although Mr Elliott can't yet reveal its identity.

His products include ultra-tough benching, decking, fences, kerbs and signs.

They present a tough challenge for even the most determined vandal.

"The fact that water cannot permeate it is the main thing, but it is chemically inert so it cannot be spray painted, it takes a hell of a lot more to burn it than wood and it cannot be eaten by algae," he said.

Meanwhile Hebden 40 – the load-bearing material named after Mr Elliott's home town and its depth in millimetres – which is used as the groundwork for car parks, was designed to help the environment in two ways.

Recycling discarded plastics means they don't have to go to landfill, while the strong permeable surface it creates means rain drains through to the water table, rather than collecting on the ground with potentially disastrous consequences – as many Yorkshire homes and businesses can testify.

"Because of the issues with flooding over the last few years, like in Tewkesbury in 2007, things like this are really important.

Hebden 40 is so strong, Mr Elliott said, that it can take the weight of any vehicle that is legal for use on British roads.

It can also be used to make a helicopter pad and, given such qualities, it is no wonder the Army is now using it, for example, on its 12,000 square metre car park at the Royal Logistic Corps, at Leconfield, near Hull.

As more and more of Britain's green spaces are concreted-over, Mr Elliott anticipates a growing market for Hebden 40.

New buildings need car parks, and the increased public concern over flooding will prompt architects and engineers to think more about water run-off.

This is just one of the products made for BRP, however. It has taken its recycling principles to the paint industry and begun

re-using the domestic emulsion which, typically, sits under the stairs in British homes.

This is colour co-ordinated, mixed and colour balanced before resins and multipliers are added to make it back into a good quality product.

Most Britons use Dulux and Crown paints, which means that those brands provides much of the source material which is recycled on behalf

of Mr Elliott's company in West Sussex.

Small amounts come to Hebden Bridge to be tested, but otherwise the paint is sold by the palette and sent direct to customers, mainly large-scale customers, which include housing associations and NHS trusts.

BRP produces about 5,000 litres a week and expects to increase this to 20,000 by the end of this year.

Cream and magnolia are among the most popular shades, but Mr Elliott – perhaps in a nod to his background in the visual arts – has plans to paint a Bridget Riley-style series of vertical stripes on the wall of his downstairs studio to showcase the brand's full range of colours.

It is not the only reminder of Mr Elliott's varied background. His office, in a former mill on the canalside, contains pictures of him working for a Spanish holiday company, while his other past jobs include that of an art auctioneer in California and as a press photographer in the Costas.

It is perhaps this job that seems farthest away from the quiet industry of Hebden Bridge. As a freelancer for national newspapers in Britain, he snapped television stars like actress Barbara Windsor, the occasional fraudster, and former footballer Stan Collymore.

Such a life, amid the heat and high-jinks of Brits abroad, may sound comic, but Mr Elliott saw more serious moments as well, such as after the bombings at the barracks of the Guardia Civil, in 2002, which led to the photographer being shunted on to GMTV to give an early report of the tragedy.

Life in Hebden Bridge may seem quiet in comparison but the businessman still sounds busy. As well as photographing 500 people from the town for 500 Faces – a celebration of the passing of five centuries since it was founded – he is also involved in setting up its jazz and blues festival.

It seems that Mr Elliott will leave his mark on the Pennine town as well as on the recycling industry – and whatever else he turns his hand to next.


Title: Managing director, British Recycled Products.

Date of birth: September 1, 1964.

Education: Beaufoy School, Lambeth, London – "how to steal cars and fighting were the sort of things you learnt".

First job: busking on the London Underground.

Favourite holiday destination: the Caribbean, or skiing in the Dolomites.

Favourite film: Pulp Fiction, directed by Quentin Tarantino.

Last book read: Enter the Dragon by Theo Paphitis.

Car driven: SEAT Leon FR

Most proud of: my children, son, 10, and daughter, 17.