Plastic at the heart of three-in-one business

Patrick Connelly of Theme Bins International. Picture by Tom Banks
Tees Business Digital Media Pack

Plastic’s been his passion all his working life – and now Patrick Connolly aims to prove three into one DOES go.

Since 1990, plastic has been Belfast-born Patrick’s business calling – 30 years making “all sorts of weird and wonderful things” and picking up huge experience along the way.

And now he’s drawing on all that experience to run three complementary, but all plastic-based, businesses – including two in the North-East region.

Hull-based Apollo Plastics, which he took over last year, has been vacuum forming quality plastic parts and products – everything from cutlery trays to shower trays and basins – since 1960.

B2B – which Patrick took out of administration around the same time – uses the injection moulding process to make, for example, cable trunking, as well as parts for the Ministry of Defence and NHS, from its base in Throckley.

And his most recent acquisition – street furniture manufacturer Theme Bins International, based on the Felling Industrial Estate, Gateshead – is about to undergo a radical transformation.

To reflect its vastly expanded product range after diversifying into street and education furniture, including seats, lockers and even bins for PPE equipment, it will get a new name: Plastic Furniture Co.

But it will also get a big relaunch, including a new website and an increasing focus on ecommerce.

And it all adds up to exciting business opportunities for dad-of-three and grandad-of-three Patrick and his wife of 29 years, Frances.

After graduating in chemical engineering Plastic at the heart of North-East three-in-one business from Belfast’s Queen’s University, Patrick first came to England in 1989 to work for the Department of Trade and Industry in Stevenage.

He moved north to work for Linpac in Hartlepool – and that’s when his love affair with the North-East began.

Working for such firms as Linpac and Speciality Filaments, then owning Bishop Auckland-based Custom Profiles, he learned all about the plastic industry.

While he spent 2014 to 2019 back home in Northern Ireland with plastic profiles firm Boomer Industries, the call of this region proved too strong.

Now he and Frances are back in the North-East, eager to use Patrick’s vast knowledge to become a market leader in all things plastic manufacturing.

There’ll be a general manager at each of the three sites which, between them, provide 35 jobs and a turnover of £2m – although the aim is to boost that to £3m-£4m.

With each business specialising in different processes within the plastics industry, they should complement each other perfectly.

Patrick said: “I want people to phone us if they want things made in plastic because, between the three firms, I’m sure we’ll find a way.

“For example, parts for Theme Bins we can make at our other sites. That helps open up our development opportunities and the speed with which we can respond.”

Patrick also has a keen eye for the environment – and particularly the increasing use of recycled plastics.

He explained: “Plastic can be recycled easily, providing you separate the different types. But you can’t effectively reuse plastic if it’s all mixed.”

To that end, he’s developing a bin with sensors which will only allow the right type of plastic to be deposited in it – and that, in turn, should make plastic recycling much easier and more efficient.

He said: “There’s enough people out there demanding plastic isn’t put into landfill for it to be economically viable.

“We’ve got the bins and the expertise to do the identification. We now just need to connect the two.”

So these are exciting times – and Patrick’s even confident the pandemic situation can help, not hinder his developments plans.

He said: “In some ways, this is exactly the right time because I’ve got time to develop the products and plan for the future. We see it as a big opportunity.”