“IT was hard, there were sleepless nights and all of the things that come with setting up a business, but we got a good deal on some of the things we were buying.”

Alex Foreman is reliving the moment he decided to found a company during the recession.

Working from a room in his home for the first few months, Mr Foreman says the birth of Darlington-based Total Recycling Services was an interesting experience.

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It may now provide collection of recyclable goods, such as papers, metals, cardboard and plastics, hazardous waste recovery and industrial services, such as the cleaning of grease traps, interceptors and storage tanks, but it didn’t happen overnight.

He said: “I set up in a recession, which some people may have thought I was stupid to do and there wasn’t much appetite from banks to provide new start-ups with money.

“However, we found someone that was good to us from day one.

“We had to jump through a few hoops but I would say the benefits outweigh the negatives.

“When we first started we didn’t have the money to buy a site or vehicles.

“It was the time when potential customers were looking to change and save money.

“Nobody was buying equipment, land or putting buildings up, so we could drive a better bargain for ourselves.

“Also, when we started, customers were already in the recession, so they had gone from 100,000 tonnes down to 10,000.

“These businesses were under their own pressures to save money but it didn’t just fall into place, we had to go and do the work.”

Mr Foreman was also helped by the fact he could draw upon years of experience in the waste sector.

He grew up working for the family business, Foreman Recycling, with his identical twin Adam and his father.

When that was sold prior to the recession, he took a position with its new owners before the urge to set up his own operation became too strong.

Having since bought out the former family business, Total Recycling Services now operates two sites, with its head office, distribution services and a hazardous waste base on Darlington’s Lingfield Way complemented by a Palms Court recycling facility, also in the town.

With a turnover of £14m and headcount approaching 100 full-time workers, Mr Foreman, managing director, said he is pleased with its progress.

However, he isn’t about to settle for what he’s got, revealing plans are in to increase the company’s foothold in the recycling sector and build on contracts with well-known operators such as Sunderland car maker Nissan.

He said: “The idea over the next year is to make an acquisition; if we don’t do that we’ll open a new facility.

“We have got some lofty ambitions; I want to keep it going and double the size of the business in the next five years.

“Turnover is around £14m and I’d like it to get to £30m in that period.

“We are really good with staff and do a lot of training.

“If they come and work with us and they leave, then they leave a better person with more experience and qualifications.

“I’ve tried to build something so that when people come to see us the first impression they get is a really good one.”

The firm’s growth was last year helped by £6.7m backing from the Business Growth Fund (BGF), which gave the company a platform to build on its successes.

Mr Foreman added: “They have been with us for the past 18 months and have been absolutely brilliant.

“We feel like we have got a really good partner.

“You can only go so far with your own money; when we have needed them they have been there.”

Five minutes with...Alex Foreman

Favourite North-East building and why? Victoria ParkHartlepool United. I'm a fan.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid? Washing dishes at the Mayfair Centre, in Hartlepool, at the age of 15. I got paid very little.

What is the worst job you've had? Washing dishes at the Mayfair Centre!

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner? Dover sole.

What would your superpower be? It would have to be time travel.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party: Bob Dylan, Nelson Mandela, Will Ferrell and Mila Kunis.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much? A Rolex watch that cost £6,000.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why? Donald Trump - for some light-hearted relief.

Favourite book? The Khan Dynasty.

When did you last cry? When my son was born.

What is your greatest achievement? Helping to raise my two beautiful children.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given? My dad regularly gives me business advice. It’s too much to mention but it’s all good.

Favourite animal and why? A dog. We have a Lhasa Apso at home, Berty.

Most famous person on your mobile phone? Gordon Watson, ex-Premier League football player.

What was the last band you saw live? Anna Pancaldi at the last Music v Cancer gig. We’ve sponsored the North-East charity for the last five years.

Describe your perfect night in: A couple of beers and Match of the Day

In another life I would be? A footballer.

Who would play you in a film of your life? James McAvoy.

What irritates you? Celebrities and red tape.